Media & Entertainment

The 21st Century Humanitarian Act – Love Army for Somalia

“This is the story of what can happen when the power of social media is leveraged for something good,” says Casey Neistat – a YouTube celebrity – in a prologue to his attempt at raising awareness about the current famine occurring in Somalia. If media figures such as the likes of Casey Neistat, Jérôme Jarre, Juanpa Zurita and/or Ben Stiller aren’t on your social media feed, then you might have missed out on what’s going on. Unified through social media, the new humanitarian movement that goes by the name Love Army for Somalia is now able to distribute 60 tons of food for affected Somalis.

In March 15, French social media celebrity Jérôme Jarre posted his first tweet in 2017 – and just like that, an initiative was born. Jérôme tweeted a video of himself expressing his distraught for the lack of media attention on what is known to be the worst famine since the end of World War 2. As evident in the video, it became clear that the power of social media itself could evoke a bigger voice and gain greater attention even without a head start from key media players. Fellow YouTubers and celebrities soon followed by posting 1 to 2-minute videos of themselves explaining the current situation in Somalia and what we, as followers, can do to help.

Here’s what’s happening in Somalia: President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia declared a national disaster in February of this year with the ongoing drought that started in 2015. About 6 million people are affected and are in grave need for food supply. It’s crucial that both short-term and long-term responses to the crisis are devised, and those are what these media celebrities alongside on-site NGOs are seen to be doing.

We live in an age where mainstream media are not the only source of news, as we now have citizen journalists who utilize innovative ways to influence their social circles that may or may not gradually expand to the wider community. Love Army for Somalia is easily becoming one of the viral movements that fully encapsulates the dynamics that social media can bring to the table. Tools such as text posts, images, video uploads, hashtags and trending topics are further fueled by a familiar (famous) faces and a checkmark verification symbol placed next to their names – that’s all you really need to get hold of news these days. What does this mean for mainstream media, then? Are they losing traction of newsworthy items to social convergence that’s happening to key influencers as we speak?

We have to consider what the consequences are for these news items. If it hadn’t been for Jérôme’s tweet, the tragedy in Somalia wouldn’t have reached 12-year-old social media users or even me for that matter, and consequently it wouldn’t have reached you (yes, you – reading this article right now – unless you’ve heard the news elsewhere, of course). For that reason, some 86,719 people wouldn’t have given donations that have enabled the total to reach $2,488,680 in just 24 days if it weren’t for the transparency, or constant update if you will, from these media celebrities. Transparency through social media platforms has allowed these media celebrities to transform an idea into an initiative and finally an action that involves not just individuals of society but also industries. For instance, long-term plans include improving the local economy in Somalia by purchasing food locally; also, this movement is equally beneficial for Turkish Airlines – being the only air carrier travelling to Somalia – as they acquire free publicity in addition to contributing to the cause.

You can tell by now (at least from the tweets above) that Jérôme’s tweets mostly consist of Love Army for Somalia and their progress. In fact, all of his tweets posted this year have never veered off topic; and so far it’s working – tweeting in constant caps locks and image or video uploads exude enthusiasm and optimism for the issue, while hashtags promote its newsworthy appeal to raise attention in the public. The hashtag #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia has earned them their primary logistics, while #NominatedForSomalia has earned them more supporters and hence donators. Words spread fast when hashtags are involved.

Casey Neistat made a YouTube video entitled WE HAVE 10 DAYS TO GET A MILLION DOLLAR$ about how the initiative started, and now a documentary seems to be in the works by Ben Stiller. It’s not surprising, then, if I suddenly see a splurge of Love Army for Somalia making headlines on mainstream media in the future.

Go visit https://www.gofundme.com/LOVEARMYFORSOMALIA now and partake in this groundbreaking, 21st-century humanitarian movement.

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Neysa Azalia
Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Neysa aims to make the most of her experiences studying and residing 11,000 kilometres away from her country of birth. She enjoys creative storytelling through mostly visual and textual instruments.

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