“Social Media Made the World Care About Standing Rock”, but was that it?: A Refutation

In today’s modern world our daily lives are constantly surrounded by differing social media platforms. It is easy for someone to create the illusion of being involved with rising movements such as the Standing Rock protest that occurred recently in North Dakota. While it is true that there are power in numbers we cannot say the same if those numbers are hidden behind a computer screen hundreds of miles from the heart of the issue.

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An article on wired.com written by Emily Dreyfuss discusses both the successes and failures the world has seen throughout the Standing Rock protest. This article creates a framework arguing that the #hashtags and clicktivsm campaign was just as important, if not more important, than the physical protesters who camped out in the freezing temperatures of North Dakota. As we know, thousands camped out and marched to the reservation in order to deny the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The article also argued that protesters, “knew what could and would happen if the world stopped watching, and the world did” which was the ultimate demise of this protest.

The juxtaposed paragraph following the claim about the importance of the social eye on the Standing Rock protest began with “Today, President Trump signed an executive memo aimed at allowing the Dakota Access Company to finish the last bit of pipeline.”  This structure credits the protest failures to the lack of clicktivism towards the end of this long struggle. I disagree with what this article is arguing because it is simply an illogical argument that discredits the thousands of protesters who stayed put in their snow-covered tents with minimal food and water in North Dakota.

There is no question that social media and clicktivism made the world care more about Standing Rock and this fight. By November 1, over 1 million facebook users had “checked-in” to Standing Rock. These social platform allows for acts of solidarity in protest around the world that has not been available throughout this nation’s history.  However I believe we cannot get confused with the hierarchy of importance when it comes to protest. Clicktivism is becoming an important aspect of modern day protest but it would be nothing if it weren’t for those willing to be present, shedding blood, sweat and tears to fight for what they believe in.

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“Checking in at Standing Rock on Facebook isn’t helpful”: An Affirmative View

October 31, 2016 there was a mass number of Facebook check-ins to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. However, the majority of those who checked in were not physically present. This action was done in the hopes of throwing off law enforcement tracking individuals’ locations based off of social media. Despite the awareness the check-ins spread, the clicktivism action was not truly helpful or enough.

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A Mic article believes, “clicking a few buttons on Facebook just isn’t enough to make an impact”. The article explains that Standing Rock protesters appreciated the support shown online but there is no direct evidence proving that it was of any help. Additionally, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department stated that it does not follow Facebook check-ins which undermines the initial intended purpose.

Clicktivism is an easy way for individuals who may not be able to be physically present due to distance and time barriers to be virtually present. The act shows solidarity from those who checked-in to Standing Rock but it ends there.

If someone is not near North Dakota, they can be a more active participant after learning about the protest through clicktivism by donating to the cause and signing a petition without having to travel great distances.

The article shares an email from Sacred Stone Camp that asserts the “Facebook Check In” did not originate from them and lists various ways they hope to encourage people to take physical action. Some of the suggestions are, but not limited to: demanding banks to divest, police enforcement to withdraw, construction to halt, connecting with indigenous and environmental struggles in your own bioregion, and investigating personal relationships to fossil fuel consumption. These suggestions ultimately make a bigger impact on the reservation.

Immediately the day after the initial check-ins, November 1, more than 1 million people “checked in” to Standing Rock. It is important to not undermine the benefit that the Facebook Check-In was for Sacred Stone Camp in order to have a greater voice and spread of information within the public. Clicktivism created a greater platform to spread the message but it must not stop there. The goal is not to spread awareness but to elicit change and stop construction on the reservation.