Social Media: Trending Today, Gone Tomorrow
More than a month ago, at the beginning of March, Kony 2012 was all over the web. On Twitter, #Kony2012 and #StopKony was trending worldwide, on Facebook, people were posting and sharing the YouTube video, which now has more than 88,400,000 views.
Media organizations picked it up airing it all over the news. UA students were talking about it. For a week, it seemed everybody had something to say about Kony 2012, from “OMG did you see that video?” “It’s so sad, all those children in Uganda… who knew?” to “The LRA are no longer a threat,” and “how can a 30-minute video give you all the facts?” So, there were the supporters, the criticizers and everybody in-between.
The video called for people to take action on April 20, to “cover the night” and “blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up” with posters and images of Kony, calling for his justice.
So four days ago, on Friday night, 30 UA students met to “Cover the night.” Only 30. A month ago, it seemed there would be a lot more. From the way social media was blowing up— all those people who wanted to do something, all those who people felt bad for the children and wanted to bring “justice”—where were they?
Even worldwide, the Internet’s success of mobilizing people failed to bring any real action.
This seems to be the new trend. A topic blows up on social media, gets everybody’s attention for a couple of days, then fades away. Does this mean people no longer care? Is humanity’s attention span getting shorter because of social media?
This happened with Kony and more recently with Trayvon Martin.
A month ago, Trayvon Martin’s case was the leading story for all media outlets. It was all over Twitter and led to Facebook events for protests and hoodie marches.
But for weeks now, its social media hype has been on a steep drop. I no longer see Twitter feeds following the case, although part of the reason may be because Zimmerman has been charged for second-degree murder. However, the case is still going, and I wonder if the rest of the world continues to pay attention.
Is this blown-up, over-exaggerated, fast-paced social media attention good or bad? I believe, to a certain extent, it is good. It brings awareness to issues that otherwise would have remained unknown. It opens forums for discussion and brings attention to similar issues around the world.
On the other hand, this short attention span has its negative effects. Sometimes, trends on social media are not the most newsworthy topic. It can put more important news on the backburner. For example, with the Kony video, as important as it is to bring justice to Kony, the media looked past other crimes both locally and around the world to give airtime for Kony. What about giving more attention to the people who are dying in Syria everyday or to the water scarcity in Africa?
Social media has an incredibly strong influence in today’s society, both on agenda setting of media, and in the decisions we make day-to-day. Living in a fast-paced world, everything changes as your phone refreshes the latest Tweet , it makes sense one topic doesn’t stay around for long. Social media is used largely by today’s youth and we all know our attention span doesn’t last very long.
We should allow some issues die, like Justin Bieber calling out his baby momma drama, but we need to follow up with, and carry on the important issues. The idea that Invisible Children is fading again because it is no longer trending shows we need to refocus our attention, and carry on some of the big issues.
Saba Naseem is the 2011-2012 Traveler editor.