Facebook Check-In: Standing Rock, ND

It is currently post-midterms and pre-Thanksgiving season, and as a college student, you should either be exhausted, on the verge of having your fourth nervous breakdown of the week, or watching Netflix instead of editing your paper. Instead of doing your lengthy readings, you are scrolling through Facebook in hopes of eschewing the daunting truth that there are only five weeks of school left and you must get your grade up.

I have a Facebook friend whose primary objective in her digital life is to inspire her followers to vote for Hillary Clinton. Her posts are usually leftist, outspoken and liberal, and refreshingly entertaining. I was really banking on her sense of humor during a study break, so I decided to scroll through her Facebook page and lo and behold — my Facebook friend checked into the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. I was very much confused; I had just seen her on campus a few days ago. Maybe she had flown to protest? Maybe she wanted to take a trip to North Dakota? I had no idea and was thoroughly puzzled.

Are you also wondering why your Facebook friends are sporadically checking into the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota?

As of today, there have been over 1 million people who have checked into Standing Rock, North Dakota through Facebook in an attempt to confuse the police. Supporters are believing lawmakers and police officers are using social media as a tool to track down protesters. The “checking-in” feature is usually used to check-in to restaurants, tourist spots, etc. In this case, the feature is utilized in a show of support for the tribe that has been rallying against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Most “visitors” are not actually in North Dakota at the protest camp; however, through checking into the reservation, they are showing their support for the tribe and the sacred land they are fighting for. According to an NPR article, the planned route crosses the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation, and the tribe says it may have the ability to contaminate drinking water and defile sacred land. 

People are using the checking in tool as a tactic to confuse the police. According to The Guardian, “Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at Standing Rock, ND to overwhelm and confuse them.”

However, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department posted on their Facebook page on Monday that “it does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location.” Regarding the report, they claimed that it was “absolutely false.”

Whether or not the Sheriff’s Department is checking Facebook to track down protestors, they are, however,  inflicting unnecessary brutality towards the Water Protectors and other supporters.

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From Vice: A protestor says he fell down and severely cut his hand after being maced in the eyes by police officers while praying at the protest front lines. 

The tactic of using social media as a tool to exhort audiences to fight against injustice is a 21st century protesting tactic — and in my opinion, it is extremely smart and savvy. Social media is free, relatively easy to use and practically everyone within the ages of 9-70 will have some type of social media account. Facebook is a universal, familiar and widely-used social media site whose platform is almost perfect for the amalgamation of media, politics, opinions, and funny memes. Furthermore, the affinity between “Facebook friends” is something companies and organizations bank on when it comes to digital analysis towards a brand, product or restaurant/company/start-up location — in this case, the location happens to be the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.