Social media campaigning continues to prove ineffective

By Sehar Siddiqui

Two years ago, the Internet was taken by storm with a campaign to put a stop to Joseph Kony’s war crimes against children in Africa.

One day we were all clambering to buy Kony 2012 action kits of posters, wristbands and other materials — and the next we dropped the cause like a wet rag. 

Although the cause was commendable, it was extremely short-lived.

In reality, most of us only cared about Kony 2012 because social media told us to. When social media dictated it was no longer a hot topic, we stopped caring.

Rather than continuing to support an important international crisis, we slouched away after the novelty wore off.  

As with Kony 2012, social media often brings to light social issues, and users try to tackle them with campaigns and hashtags.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be ineffective and, more importantly, take away from the original purpose or message of the cause and direct the attention elsewhere.

For example, recently the Twitter account @ColbertReport came out with a supposedly racist tweet saying, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. The tweet was misconstrued and taken out of context. 

It was a satirical joke referencing the Washington Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, for creating a foundation to help Native Americans rather than change their offensive mascot. 

Not to mention, this particular Twitter account was not even run by Stephen Colbert.

As a result, it led to masses of people focusing on how “racist” Stephen Colbert was instead of seeing the tweet for what it was — a satirical parallel pointing out the absurdity of the Redskins’ refusal to change their mascot, and their vain attempt to cover this by starting a foundation to help Native Americans.

If you are a person who regularly watches satire comedy, such as The Colbert Report, you would understand that the types of jokes they feature try to shed light on larger issues and realize the tweet wasn’t meant to be a green light to make fun of other races.

Directly attacking the satirical tweet that referenced The Colbert Report clip used to address the Redskins was a selfish way for activists to fuel their own causes, while conveniently ignoring the bigger issue at hand.

Like many trends established on social media, the intentions seem to be good, although in reality, they’re founded on a superficial level.

Another example, the No Makeup Selfie For Cancer Awareness campaign, encourages people to post pictures of themselves on social media without makeup to raise money for cancer.

Sounds like a great idea, right? How can you draw a negative connotation from something that raises money for an important cause like cancer?

Unfortunately, although the cause is admirable, the channel for raising money isn’t.

Rather than focusing attention on people suffering from cancer, it seems this campaign serves to fuel the self-esteem of bare-faced people and essentially has nothing to do with the fight against cancer.

Those who post these makeup-free selfies may feel they have contributed greatly to a cause, but all they’ve managed to do is vainly focus the attention onto themselves and away from the true cause — cancer.

However, there are plenty of instances where people productively utilize social media for a cause. St. Baldrick’s, for instance, another cancer awareness campaign where people donate their hair for wigs, allows participants to share their experiences on Instagram and Facebook, and spread awareness through Twitter.

And this is the kind of focus we should have when faced with any social media campaign — one that’s consistent with the issue at hand. We shouldn’t become involved because we want trendy wristbands, fuel for our own fires or self-esteem boosts.

Whether you’re someone with a crumpled up Kony 2012 action kit at the bottom of the garbage heap in your closet, an individual taking a satirical joke out of context to push your own agenda, or a girl vying for compliments on a make-up free skin picture, keep in mind the true meaning of a cause. 

Don’t let social media steer you the wrong way.

Sehar is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Nimatod.