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When clicktivism leads to something bigger.


A few years ago I had the honor to participate in a PBS NewsHour live interview about the impact of the #StopKony video.

For those who don't recall, a 30-minute video about the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army was posted in 2012 and within hours had millions of views and dominated mainstream conversations for days. The video offered viewers a tantalizing promise: Spread this message and we'll have enough power to bring down an evil force in the world.

The video did particularly well among those ages 13 to 18. Meanwhile, adults -- especially the type who watch the NewsHour were shaking their heads in disbelief and confusion. Many wondered how this particular video had gone viral so fast, when it broke so many rules of quality content in the digital age. (It was long and on a fairly obscure topic.)

But the bigger debate among the older generation is about the value of clicktivism in general. These young-uns who express their activism digitally: Are they making a difference?

Now looking back on that debate several years ago, I'm struck by one thought: Perhaps the #StopKony clicktivism of five years ago has fed the incredible wave of advocacy and action we are seeing in youngsters today. The students leading school walkouts at Parkland High School following the devastating school massacre on Valentine's Day were 13 at the time that #StopKony made headlines. They fed that wave of activism. And today, they are speaking to the President, making waves in legislation across the country and leading marches and walkouts on arguably the most controversial topic in this country today: Gun control.

All those clicks and shares might not have brought Kony down five years ago. But the lessons learned and the advocacy that fight fueled might just bring down a bigger force: The NRA.

 

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