Awareness Fatigue and “Like”tivism
Watch this video. I’ll wait… Love it. It seems more and more charities and individuals are engaging in awareness campaigns with a focus on social media. Every once in a while one of them strikes a chord and goes viral (like the ambitious but ultimately undermined Kony 2012 project from Invisible Children). The majority of these efforts are short lived and their success is measured in the number of shares, likes, and retweets they generate. The problem is, that doesn’t really do anything. Social justice and activism have to be much more than clicking a mouse or tapping a screen. We’ve lowered the bar so drastically that it has even become acceptable for major corporations to determine how to distribute their charitable giving according to online popularity contests that serve more for marketing than impact. The UNICEF video simply and powerfully demonstrates this. It is almost never enough to just raise awareness (I’ll make an exception for things like the Bell Let’s Talk campaign and MADD who are addressing issues where simply starting conversations actually does have real change potential). Most real issues require money, energy, and sacrifice to make a difference. I grow frustrated with substituting ease for effort. There are just too many problems in the world. We shouldn’t be trying to get everyone to have slight familiarity with the ones we care about. We should be working to find the few who; due to personal experience, natural affinity, or circumstance, are ready to become activists and donors. Change is driven by the passionate few, not the aware masses. I know most will respond that awareness is the first step, a way to seek out those who might step further in. That is probably the intent in many awareness campaigns, but I don’t see it bringing those results. We need to change the metrics so we are designing tools with the goal of engaging people to a point of passion. Counting clicks may satisfy an insecure ego, but it doesn’t save any lives.