Kony 2012 & the Dangers of Social Media, Part 2

David Quinn —  March 14, 2012 — 9 Comments
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesThe Dangers of Social Media

Question #2: What voices do you allow to have influence in your life?

Kony 2012 is an example of marketing genius and demonstrates an effective exploitation of social media to move a story quickly and generate massive amounts of support for a cause. It raises many interesting questions if we decide to take the time to think and investigate instead of simply reacting to a message from a short video that a lot of our friends like.

If you follow a few hundred people on Twitter and a few hundred people on Facebook, you have the opportunity to be bombarded each day with whatever those people think is most important for themselves and everyone around them. You will also occasionally receive messages encouraging you to click a link to see who is saying bad things about you, or to get a free $1,000 gift card to one of your favorite stores. The moment you do it, you release your identity and allow someone else to use your reputation to influence your friends. They will then use your identity to convince your friends that you believe it is worth their time to do something you value, except that it’s not what you really value. Our fears and desires are well known and they are targeted every day. Who are we really allowing to speak to us and how much of what we are listening and responding to is an accurate portrayal of reality?

One reason I am personally passionate about this whole phenomenon is due to my former ministry. I worked for almost ten years, traveling internationally to visit churches and equip them for compassionate service to the poor in their communities. I have friends in Uganda and I know missionaries there who have first hand experience working with children who have escaped out of the LRA. Because of my experience, I also know that if you were to listen to the voices of many people living in Northern Uganda today, they would tell you a very different story than the one you heard through Kony 2012.

When I first entered the world of church based international relief and development all those years ago, one of my predecessors gave me some very wise advice to consider that is beneficial for any Christian who wants to get involved in serving the poor and the suffering in international contexts. It has everything to do with your choice of counselors and the partnerships you develop.

1. You should begin by seeking wisdom and understanding from God. What do the Scriptures say about it? Pray and ask God to show you what He has said about something, what he is already doing, and how you can best be involved. Ask if he is calling you to do or support a specific kind of work in a particular location. The difficulty in deciding what one thing you should do often comes because there are so many good things you could be involved in. You need God’s guidance.

2. Find people who are already involved in the kind of work you want to pursue. Learn from their successes and failures. Watch them for a while before you start doing anything. If you are responding quickly to the first thing you hear, you will always be prone to being led into doing all kinds of things for other people. Find and listen to people you respect. Make sure they demonstrate humility, trustworthiness and experience in the kind of work you are considering.

3. Develop relationships with the people you want to help. You must know the people you want to serve, otherwise you will end up doing things that you think are best for them, without any concern for what they think and how your help affects them. You may actually end up hurting them, even if it’s not your intention.

This is an important litmus test: Anyone who asks you to get involved in a cause and gives you the impression that there’s no time to ask questions is using you. The cause may be for a good purpose, but the method of employing your help must also respect your ability to think. People seeking your help need also to recognize the responsibilities and priorities God has called you to be faithful with in your own life. There are many ways that people will try to lead you to help with their mission, and it may have nothing to do with God’s mission or your part of God’s mission.

You must involve your heart and mind in preparation to act. You must seek wisdom. If you do not, you may end up contributing to something you think you believe in, only to find out the full story is different than what you were told. Do you only listen to what’s most popular or to those who speak the loudest? Do you listen to the one who speaks first, or do you wait to hear from others (Prov. 18:17)? Wisdom comes from having a multitude of counselors (Prov 11:14, 15:22, 24:6).

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Series Navigation<< Kony 2012 & the Dangers of Social Media, Part 1Kony 2012 & the Dangers of Social Media, Part 3 >>

David Quinn

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David is the Director of Institutional Assessment at Eternity Bible College. He started following Jesus when he was nine, grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and went to college with the plan of graduating and moving to a jungle somewhere. Instead, he started serving in high school ministry and worked for nine years at a Christian relief and development agency serving children in need. He gained experience traveling, teaching and learning from the global church in over fifteen countries, while developing strategic partnerships and evaluating the effectiveness of programs. He is passionate about organizing massive amounts of information and turning it into stories. David and his wife Anna live in Simi Valley and serve in various ministries at Cornerstone Church.
  • Monique Newman

    While the things suggested as litmus tests are wise to consider, should we not applaud our brothers putting Micah 6:8 in action? Consider this:
    http://thesoldproject.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/to-invisible-children/

    • David Quinn

      Hi Monique,

      Thanks for commenting and thank you for the link to the other article.

      I too have followed IC since it was founded. I went to college with Jason and I have many friends who are very close with him to this day. I’ve continued to follow the recent developments and I’m very concerned for Jason and his family. I’ve been praying for them. I believe there are a lot of people who used personal attack, mockery and ignorant criticism to respond and I don’t agree with those people at all.

      I and many others believe that sending the U.S. military to assist the Ugandan military (which is guilty of many injustices itself) is not the best way for a Christian to respond to this issue if we want to truly demonstrate justice and mercy. Instead of Micah 6:8, I would say that Invisible Children is very good at putting Proverbs 31:8,9 into practice. They are excellent advocates for the children. An advocate speaks up on behalf of one who doesn’t have much of a voice, and they have done that for the children abducted by the L.R.A. For that I applaud them!

      The article you linked to had a lot of quotes aimed at defending IC instead of responding to some of the healthy criticism they’ve recieved. When Kristoff states that what Invisible Children is doing is better than the “sneering scorn of do-nothing armchair cynics”, he is setting up a false situation. It is simply inaccurate to say that all of the criticism is coming from those kinds of people. One of my points throughout my series of posts was that there are many people criticizing IC’s methods who live and work in Uganda and have spent their lives there, some of them involved in responding to the crisis or other international situations that are similar. To claim that IC’s work is better than nothing is a big failure to realize that a lot already has been done long before they ever showed up in Uganda, and that there are many other community leaders, nonprofits and ministries that are helping.

      They make it sound like the reason the whole thing continues is because the US government doesn’t know what’s going on, and if only you will call your Congressman, that will bring an end to this. The idea that the US government or military must get involved in order to end the situation is not helpful at best, and patronizing at worst.

      Furthermore, I agree that none of this should be used to personally attack or bully Jason. One of the big difficulties with viral videos and social media is that it brings a lot of people into the conversation who are mean spirited and have no ability to engage in civil discussion. The other thing it highlights is that we have a lot of people in our spheres of relationship who are unable to debate or disagree in a healthy manner. Someone who is unable to receive correction is prideful and unable to gain wisdom. That goes for people on both sides. That to me is dangerous and sad. And we’ve seen the toll it has taken on Jason. I pray that God will strengthen him, protect him from those who speak evil, and give him wisdom. I also pray that Invisible Children will listen to others who are trying to give them wise advice out of care and concern for their organization and the people who have suffered in Uganda.

  • Casey Groves

    David,

    Excellent and informative. Love the litmus test. I also greatly appreciate your patience… 🙂

  • Julie

    Thank you, David, for your thoughtful reply. Although I realize I can still learn a thing or two from those who misrepresent others, I find myself less likely to trust them as a reliable resource when this happens. And although I agree with you that it’s important to think and pray through any issue with which we are considering involving ourselves, I, personally, don’t necessarily feel called to make sure everyone else is doing the same. I, too, agree with IC on some points. The points I disagree with aren’t enough to hinder me from supporting their efforts. I’m not interested in discussing the details of my understanding of IC’s efforts and the criticisms of their critics, as I don’t see it as a fruitful use of my time at this juncture in my life. My time is limited, so I hope you understand. May you continue to follow the Spirit’s leading.

  • Julie

    Sounds like you want us to question the voices that may have influence in our life. I assume you’re including the voice we hear in this very blog. Sadly, some of the links to the articles by people who “give another side of the story” contain comments that horribly misrepresent Invisible Children. You want us to question the voices that have influence in our lives, yet you make available to us some apparently suspect sources. I certainly have no problem with hearing another side of the story, but when that “other side” includes deliberately misrepresenting another person or organization, the entire article becomes untrustworthy. Maybe you haven’t thoroughly read through IC’s website and maybe you haven’t thoroughly read through each of the articles you posted and compared them, so you may not even be aware of this.

    Even if they do locate, arrest and bring Kony to justice this year, people will find some reason to find fault with Invisible Children and their efforts. Each of us must do what the Spirit leads us to do for each of us must stand before God and give an account. If one is called to make a video to bring awareness to a situation, he/she should do it and do it with conviction. If one is called to write a blog to oppose the results of that person’s conviction, then so be it.

    • David Quinn

      Hi Julie,

      Thank you for engaging and asking me to look carefully at my own point. We always have to guard against hypocrisy and I want to make sure that I’m not asking you to do something I won’t do myself. I’m glad you’re questioning me and the other articles I suggested. Without personal relationship, I’m just another voice saying, “hey, you should trust me!” I tried to talk a little bit about my knowledge of Uganda without going into too much detail. I probably should have also mentioned that I’ve been there three times, know others who have been there, and spoken personally with people who live there. IC has also travelled there many times and has experience as well.

      My primary intent with this post was to do exactly what you are saying. I want people to think through the issue more and be willing to listen to others who have different perspectives. I don’t think that means that all of the other perspectives will be accurate. I don’t agree with everything in the other articles either, but I don’t believe that is a good reason to completely dismiss everything they say. I’m curious which articles you thought misrepresented IC. They all seem to me to address the exact claims IC is making and then try to convey that the problems are a lot more complicated than the story and solution proposed by IC, which is true.

      I don’t think it’s a good practice to dismiss everything someone says if you disagree with one thing they say. The way you put it was “when that ‘other side’ includes deliberately misrepresenting another person or organization, the entire article becomes untrustworthy.” Like i said, I didn’t hear that any of the other articles were misrepresenting IC, and especially not deliberately. I think we can disagree with something someone says and it doesn’t mean that we have to distrust everything they say. I feel the same way about IC. I agree with them on some points and think they have done a great job of advocating for children.

      Someone who consistently lies to us definitely becomes untrustworthy. We all make mistakes. We all get our facts wrong sometimes. Sometimes it’s intentional and sometimes it’s accidental. It’s why we need to give and receive grace. It’s also why we have to work really hard at listening carefully to one another. All of this is very important to my point of being careful about how we receive our information and how we respond.

      I have read through IC’s website along with their responses to criticism. I have also been very familiar with their work since they were founded. I don’t believe any of my sources misrepresented IC. Many of them questioned the exact claims that IC is making and call people to learn more about the whole situation. IC actually responded to the valid criticisms they’ve received, and even agreed in some cases (especially that they oversimplified the situation). I think the dialogue is very good for this process of listening to one another. It will help them to grow and it will help other skeptical people to be convinced that IC isn’t as bad as some people are making them out to be.

      You’re also correct that each of us needs to pray and determine how we will respond as we are led by the Spirit. We will have different ways of responding with the knowledge and gifts we’ve received. We’re also all in this together and we need wisdom. May God help us as we pursue being faithful to Him.

  • Dean Knudsen

    Thanks David for your wisdom and input. You wrote “I have friends in Uganda and I know missionaries there who have first hand experience working with children who have escaped out of the LRA. Because of my experience, I also know that if you were to listen to the voices of many people living in Northern Uganda today, they would tell you a very different story than the one you heard through Kony 2012.” You neglected to tell us the other side of this story that you say comes from others in Uganda’s north. What are they saying? If people as you have stated are forced to escape, I’m a little confused. Is it good or is it a bad thing? I understand all your points above by not being immediately moved by anothers claims or passions. We need to be wise (just as Christians are called to be Bereans) and pray and research things through. Please if you will, post the other side in which you speak. Thanks and blessings to you.

  • Lance Hancock

    Love the litmus test, David. Thanks for sharing! I was one of those who acted quickly and purchased merch from IC immediately after seeing the video. Fortunately I was able to cancel my order and get a refund and will seek to invest those resources in a better, more Christ-informed way 🙂