by Matias Grotewold, ’13

As you probably know, April 20 is National Cannabis Day. It is also Hitler’s birthday. So what? Well in early March 2012, it would have mattered that April 20 was set to be Kony2012 Day of Action. Kony is an African general who tried to copy Peter Pan by creating an army of children, but found that such armies are only allowed if white male fairies command them. The point is that the campaign to annihilate Kony was one based almost entirely on social networks.

Enough LIKEs would, theoretically, defeat Kony and result in an end to his regime. Time went by; the frequency of the posts in the Kony2012 Facebook group decreased and by the time April 20 came around, everybody was either too high or way past caring about Kony2012 to do anything.

Kony2012 is just one example. But each time I hear my mom tell me “finish your vegetables, there’s kids in Africa who don’t have food!” I get an overwhelming urge to bang my fists on the table and yell “guess what, woman?! If I don’t eat my vegetables, there’s still gonna be kids in Africa who don’t have food!” But instead I bow my head and dutifully eat my vegetables.

I become one of the crowd, just as when I hit the LIKE button each time I see the name Kony or poverty or natural disaster. I tell myself, “maybe if I press LIKE, Mr. Kim Jong Un of North Korea will embrace capitalism,” or “maybe if I press LIKE then the aftermath of Katrina will disappear,” even though seven years later people still haven’t recovered. My LIKE is going to make the difference. Trust me.

No. Let’s be honest: your LIKE does not matter. It’s as useless as giving a zombie a California sushi roll. Instead, there should be a button that says “hold on, I’m getting off my lazy butt to go help the world instead of just feigning socially correct approval of what others do.” Realistically, you could make a donation or help at a homeless shelter. Or, less realistically, you could talk to the North Korean dictator about how starvation is unhealthy or start your own army of senior citizens to combat Kony’s army of children. They’re mostly bored, unemployed and undernourished anyways, just like the African kids. And sorry Mr. Zimmerman and rest in peace Trayvon Martin, but the racist aspect of a case is not going to be resolved by the number of respective LIKEs. It will be influenced by the people who show up at the courthouse protesting racism and hate crimes and by people who study the case and know the ins and outs of the legal system.

The origin of this action by inaction can be found in the early twentieth century psychoanalytic colleagues Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche, who had the theory that through the power of the mind, things can happen. An example of this is in the 2009 film The Men Who Stare at Goats, where men stare at goats and kill them with mind powers worthy of a Jedi. It won’t happen. If we want to change something, we have to act rather than sit around and watch our LIKEs not do the work.

I don’t mean to discredit every social networking campaign. I am sure that 50 Cent’s pledge to donate a can of food for each LIKE received helped children somewhere. However, I am not so sure that Kony trembled in fear at the threat of an army of American children sailing across the sea armed only with LIKEs to combat his regime.

Don’t worry, you won’t actually have to do that. Why not? Because the flaw in this logic is that Kony2012 is not about action. The most we do nowadays is shuffle to the microwave to overheat that Hot Pocket before opting to either LIKE or share somebody else’s opinion. LIKEs aren’t bad: they show you glanced at the picture and that you don’t want to be the awkward person who doesn’t care about three-legged puppy abuse. But instead of just LIKEing the picture of the malnourished African kids or LIKEing the picture of a New Orleans family still living in wreckage, maybe you could donate something or move and help. I’ll LIKE your status once you post you’re doing that.