There’s a good chance you’ve seen some of your Facebook friends “check-in” at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota…even though you swear you saw them at the local deli just last night. Yesterday, a post encouraging users around the world to “check-in” at Standing Rock went viral on Facebook.
The message stated that the influx of check-ins would confuse law enforcement officials, who were supposedly using the tool to monitor and arrest protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. The check-ins were also branded as a way for those who weren’t physically protesting at Standing Rock to express solidarity with the cause. While the actual efficacy of the check-ins is questionable, the meme reflects how our use of social media is evolving towards real-time documentation. There have been many signs that suggest this social media shift is well on its way, including the growth and popularity of “live” platforms like Snapchat and Periscope. That’s not to mention Twitter’s belief that branding itself as the “people’s news network” for live events may be enough to save the struggling company.
The Evolution of Social (Media) Activism
The viral Standing Rock Facebook check-ins also suggest that political activism on social media is similarly headed in the direction of capturing current events as they happen. For activists “on the scene”, real-time digital sharing allows for in-the-moment documentation of their experiences, with the added bonus of an infinitely large potential audience. Some examples include Facebook Live’s video of the shooting of Philando Castile and Snapchat’s Live Story of the Battle for Mosul. For activists at home, live social media gives them the perceived power to fight for their beliefs and to make a difference in the world with immediate impact — all without leaving their smartphones. You don’t have to look far to see an example of this type of digital activism – live Twitter conversations during the 2016 presidential election debates are concrete proof.
The Facebook check-in feature, which was introduced in 2010, has been one of the platform’s more neglected tools. However, its recent activist reprise suggests that it may grow more popular in the future as social media users work to find better ways to express themselves in real-time. Perhaps it will become the norm to digitally update every change in your physical location as it happens, even if you’ve only moved from the kitchen to the hallway.
Image credit: USA Today