Knowing your audience

Social media won’t support change… on its own

By 28 November 2013

Social media is allowing us to reach new audiences, disseminate research and information and ultimately connect with anyone anywhere at the drop of  a hat. Is that to say though, that we are using this ever increasing phenomenon to it’s full potential?

In recent years we have seen social media being used to facilitate campaigns and capture public attention. The kony 2012 campaign, The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are just some of the most cited examples of how the internet and social media is used. However, although we assume these campaigns were successful, to what extent did they lead to change?

Campaigns and their impact

In Indonesia the use of social media has rocketed, they are the 5th largest users of social media in the world. Indonesian activists have especially taken a shine to using social media as the tool to bring attention to a number of issues,

The Lapindo drilling disaster, 29th May 2006 was the source of some serious social media campaigns from different activists demanding that the company take responsibility for the disaster, and pay compensation to those affected. Although online the cause generated significant support it has not been able to successfully advocate for change outside the internet.

The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in Indonesia have used social media in new creative and innovative ways to ensure they have a space to share news and discuss issues against the strict legislation. The online network that the LGBT community uses is called OurVoice, and although the community has a space to share and gain some solidarity the policy and legislation in Indonesia still remains the same.

Can social media change the world?

The pattern that is emerging around online campaigns around social issues is that they are impulsive and reactive, but alone do not lead to substantial change in policy. The most widely known evidence of this is the Kony 2012 Campaign, a viral video that called for pledges to arrest Joseph Kony. Although it reached a tremendous 100 million people in 6 days and created some of the best online statistics for an online campaign, the issue itself seems to have just faded from public consciousness.

All this seems to suggest that social media sites are playing an important role in modern day activism, grabbing public attention and expressing important thoughts and ideas, but alone social media does not seem to be able to change the world.