Response 4 Prompt

For your fourth response, you will respond as you have been accustomed to doing, but you have a few different options as to where and how to post your response. You may choose from the following original posts to write a response to:

Kony2012 and Youth Activism Via SNS, by your classmate Joey Johnson

I’m a Mature Young Adult Because I Use Social Media to Get My News, by your classmate Caroline Sayer 

The “Girls Around Me” Problem Isn’t Just About Data but Sexism, by Nathan Jurgenson

Welcome to the “Augmented Revolution, also by Nathan Jurgenson

The Subjectivity of Slacktivism, by Sarah Kendzior

The Power of Youth: How Invisible Children Orchestrated Kony 2012, by danah boyd

Your response should address the content of the original piece and/or any comments that are posted previous to yours. If you choose to respond to the Jurgenson, Kendzior, or boyd pieces, you should post your comment directly on the original article and email a link to your comment to both Tanya and Prof P-S so that we can easily see it and give you credit for your post.

Your comment must be posted and emailed to us by 8pm on April 20th.

Kony2012 and youth “activism” via SNS

I am one who deeply appreciates seasonably appropriate weather, so when fair-weathered, sunny days saturated the months of this past winter, I rebelled against mother nature’s ‘gifts’ and sought comfort in the solitude of my chilly NYU dorm room, doing what we as members of the youth living in a digital age do to remedy our boredom: I Facebooked. Yes I did, indeed, just use the social network(ing) site as a verb, and I further digress, but I find it important to paint a picture of where and when it was that I was suddenly “attacked” by social media. I had spent countless hours on the site one not-so-cold winter night “stalking” and scoping my activity feed for the perfect opportunity to leave some kind of witty comment that would make clear to my own networks, whoever it was that was potentially reading my comments, that my sense of humor was intact. Alas, such opportune posts on which to achieve this were scarcely found, and as I traversed my ‘feed’, my screen was suddenly inundated with the words KONY2012. The variety that was once characteristic of this social space was suddenly replaced with the uniform. This, in combination with the sudden realization that I did not seem to know some of my closest friends as well as I thought I had (seeing as how they turned out to be part-time, under-cover social activists all deciding to “come out” at the same time), married to instill a strange anxiety within me. In hindsight, as a social media student I was both annoyed and, admittedly, impressed at how the “Kony 2012 Movement” was able to exploit the necessary desire that we as social beings using digital media possess to “write ourselves into being” (danah 129). Gone were the days when visual evidence, pictures from our latest “Habitat for Humanity” effort in a far away country, immersed in wildlife or orphanages, were necessary in order to garner the title “humanitarian”.

Truth be told, I am obviously one for the dramatics; I suppose my reaction to the campaign was, in reality, not so heated or emotional. And, contrary to the impression of myself that I have just earned, I shared in the collective sympathy and emotional reactions to the viral video. My Facebook page, however, went unchanged. Why? As a student of social media networking, I understood that doing so would serve as an intentional attempt at painting myself as a social and political activist. Those who had posted in my newsfeed, however, may not have had the same understanding of the ramifications of sharing such a post, while others, conversely, may have understood full well the art of “writing oneself into being”, shared with an acute intentionality of consequently titling oneself a “humanitarian”.

Iman Baghai, a high school Junior of Issaquah, Washington, writes in celebration of the “Movement” in the Teens section of huffingtonpost.com, naming it the “first real social media movement to capture everyone’s attention in the West”, further emphasizing the success as a shift in gears away from our luxurious Apple products. The statistics, she argues, are undeniable; the video was viewed over 67 million times on Youtube within the first five days, and has gained over 15 million more views on the site to date. As a teen, herself, Baghai’s article is in a way a self-reflection on the community to which she participates; teens in the US engaging with each other using digital media, as well as an engagement with the medium itself. She writes, “over the past week, we have witnessed youth utilizing social media to bring forth an issue to the forefront of conversation.” The rest of her piece, however, is dedicated to an opposing side to the debate surrounding the Kony2012 movement. Her delineation of this argument without doubt echoes numerous assertions made by danah boyd in her piece “Why Youth ❤ Social Network Sites”.

In her work “Why Youth ❤ Social Network Sites”, danah boyd quotes Jenny Sunden: people must learn to write themselves into being; doing so makes visible how we take the body for granted. Luckily for my activist friends, the genius in Kony2012 was in its ability to mask this ‘visibility’ of which boyd speaks; in other words, echoing my earlier rant, establishing oneself to their Friends as an activist did not require a photo album dedicated to highlighting visibly their tireless labors, but afforded this very title to those who simply ‘copied’ and ‘pasted’ a link to their profiles. According to boyd, building a public profile is an act of socialization into the digital age, a “mechanism by which teens can signal information about their identities and tastes” (128). She argues, “because of [the] direct link between offline and online identities, teens are inclined to present the side of themseves that they believe will be well received by [their] peers” (129). It is my own assumption that many of these Friends in my newsfeed posting about Kony2012 do not themselves have stores of photographs which tell the story of their other humanitarian endeavors; the Movement, as it seems to me, was able to partner with the technology itself, affording Facebook users the ability to share with their networks a facet of their being that they had been previously unable to solidify because of a lack of evidence. In this case, Kony2012 provided evidence in making “sharing” and incredibly touching, well-made video the only necessary labor or barrier of entry into this newly forming group of activists.

It did not take long, however, for the Kony2012 to lose strength in its foundation; the searchability and persistence that boyd also introduces (boyd 126) allowed for researchers to shed light on a few less-than-moral practices made by the Invisible Children foundation, even before the campaign’s video was finished. In November of 2011, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article revealing that several organizations, one of which being Invisible Children, manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of the LRA abductions and murders.” It also lost some support when it was made public that only 30 percent of its contributions were going to the efforts in Uganda. Baghai reflected in her article, be careful and do research before [we] donate to a charity to ensure [our] money is being well-utilized.” She continues her effort at self-reflection: even after a very arousing tale, a video being “liked” by all our Facebook friends, and Oprah tweeting about it, you still must check your facts.

I’m a mature young adult because I use social media to get my news!

In the past few weeks, The Kony controversy has spread like wildfire across facebook, twitter, and other social media. You would have to live under a technology-free rock to have not heard about it. Or maybe, it took you a while to hear about it because you aren’t on facebook! While there remains controversy about the Invisible Children group and what effect the Kony video should have upon its viewers, and what action it should spark among its viewers, there is no question about the effectiveness that social media has had in proliferating the spread of the video and its message.

More importantly than the rapid spread of the video, is the overwhelming demographic of those who are spreading it: young adults. In this article, the difference in news sources used to watch and share the video is emphasized. Most teens and young adults watched the Kony video on facebook, while adults would be more likely to watch the video on youtube after learning about it on television from traditional news sources. Also, “the Internet was three times more important as a news-learning platform for young adults than traditional media such as television, newspapers, and radio”. Very few young adults learned about the video from these traditional news platforms (like TV news and newspapers) – showing a widened generational gap between how we get our news compared to how our parents do.

But what does this say about how our demographic uses social media? Like in boyd’s article, “Why Youth ❤ Social Media”, she established that social media had become the place for us to “hang out” instead of going to the mall. But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well.

By using social media as a place to enact change in the world, we are making a statement about the ability of youth to have an effect on issues that, pre social media, would have been out of our reach. We can know be educated about issues halfway across the word, for example in Africa, and find a way to connect  ourselves and get involved in some way. It’s almost as if, instead of making a statement about using a certain SNS (like the youth in Willet’s Bebo example) because we are old enough, we are making a statement about how we connect with each other and now how we get our news. We consciously choose which social media sites to use, and what information we want to share on them. We are sharing news in particular on facebook because we are mature enough to talk about important issues and know that we can make a difference. Perhaps we so quickly (and naturally) gravitate toward not using more traditional news outlets like television and news papers because we never became as comfortable with navigating them like we are with social network sites. We know facebook like the back of our hand, so where else would go to spread a message as quickly and effectively?

As social media and our generation have grown up simultaneously, social media’s ever (and rapidly) changing norms have hardly ever been noticed by us. We have grown together, growing pains and all, and the changes often seem seamless to us. It’s pretty much impossible to remember life without the internet as it is now, and we are one of the first generations to not ever know life without internet. Internet use has become such a natural part of our life, as we use it for socializing, getting news, school work, playing games, and so much more.  So now as we near adulthood, we use our social media to show that we are growing up, by using it in more adult ways. For example, we use social media as a platform to show our maturity in being able to fight for certain causes, like Invisible Children and the fight against Kony. Generations past may have held protests in person, but we now have the ability to protest from anywhere in the world, and we are using it to the fullest. We are making a statement, whether we are aware of it or not, about what social media has become to us: both a place for a social life and for our transition into adulthood.