Upon traveling downtown early this week, I was met with a surprising sight: a few “Kony 2012” posters, slapped lazily on lampposts for a few blocks before tapering off and becoming totally absent.
I had figured that the Kony thing had died just as quickly as it had arisen, given that the last I heard of it was months ago. Sure enough, last Friday was designated the “Kony Day of Action.” Friday was also April 20, which may explain the lack of enthusiasm.
The whole thing just smacks of what I’m coining “apathetic engagement.” By putting up ten posters, somebody felt like they had made a huge difference in the world while still submitting the minimum of effort.
The text on the bottom of the poster reads, “Something we can all agree on.” Well, no. For one, I thought that the whole “Kony” thing would have died when Jason Russell, one of the bigwigs of the Invisible Children movement, was caught vandalizing cars, indecently exposing himself, and, ahem, rubbing his Kony in public. This was more than a month ago.
The other problem that I have with these posters is that they’re ultimately useless and potentially even harmful to the cause they’re trying to support. Awareness has never solved a problem. I think we’ve been aware of breast cancer for decades now, but Major League Soccer keeps trotting out the pink soccer balls, and NFL players keep wearing pink gloves and boots and whatever else.
What does it do? You see the pink, and you think, “Oh, it’s October again.” Besides, it doesn’t help. All you have to do is encourage women to have regular exams. And I think most women have that covered. Thanks anyway, Eli Manning.
Even worse are those “I heart boobies” bracelets that, ostensibly, also raise awareness of breast cancer. On zumiez.com, a site that sells all manner of boobie-related paraphernalia, one commenter wrote, “At my school everyone is wearing them even the chicks lol we think its funny and soo cutee.”
And that, right there, shows exactly what’s wrong with these things. They don’t mean anything anymore. Kids wear them because they think that “boobies” is a funny word, not because they support breast cancer.
But the worst offenders are people who think that posting something on Facebook is the most effective way to create change. I don’t care what color your bra is. Posting “omg so i just heard about this kony guy and he seems like a bad guy so don’t talk to the kony guy ok????” does nothing. “Coming out” in support of gay tolerance does nothing.
These are easy ways to make yourself feel like you’re somehow helping without actually doing a thing to help. Instead of slapping posters around and quoting meaningless slogans on social media, go out and do something that actually helps. Donate money or supplies to charities you like. Help to build a house for Habitat for Humanity.
Actions are so much more valuable than cursory statements of support.