Is Checking-In at Standing Rock Slacktivism?

10/31/2016 by Dylan James Harper

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In the span of several hours thousands of people “checked-in” on Facebook to Standing Rock, the location of the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was no obvious source, but several posts were shared that encouraged people to mark Standing Rock as their location to thwart police from using Facebook to gather information on protestors on the ground. Google searching proved that this was a dubious claim at best, and soon individuals protesting on location said, that while they are under police surveillance, “checking-in” is less of a “game changer” and more a nice show of solidarity. Solidarity is meaningful, but the label of “slacktivism” has already begun to crop up on the topic. Is checking-in at Standing Rock a form of slacktivism? It’s actually a pretty complicated question

Slacktivism can be a useful term. One need only look back at Kony 2012 to see the relevance. For those that are fortunate enough to have forgotten, Kony 2012 was a short film made by two white filmmakers about Joesph Kony, the leader of the militia group “The Lord’s Resistance Army.” Their plan was to have people “raise awareness” of Joseph Kony’s existence and use of child soldiers in the hopes of having various governing bodies, including the United States, work to have him killed or captured. The movement failed in part because there was nothing to accomplish. Kony was already labeled a war criminal by the United Nations, and, short of the United States moving ground troops into at least three countries in Africa, there wasn’t really much more to be done. That didn’t stop a lot of people from sharing the video, the hashtag, and even buying red Kony bracelets. They were labeled slacktivists, and rightfully so.

On the other side of the spectrum, members of Black Lives Matter have been labeled slacktivsts for relying heavily on social media. This charge seems to fall flat because, unlike Kony 2012, Black Lives Matter has not only been effective but endured. The claim that social media isn’t impactful is simply outdated. Black Lives Matter has used social media, not just to raise awareness, but to decentralize their movement, making it exceedingly difficult to stop (and you don’t need to look too far back in a history text at black civil rights movements to see what an important step this is).

So where does that leaving check-ins for Standing Rock? Well, it’s all about the individual who is checking in, and the consideration of opportunity cost. Individuals on the ground at Standing Rock have expressed appreciation for the show of solidarity, which should be taken to me that it’s a positive thing to do. However, it’s coming in place of other shows of supportive (sharing articles with more information, donating time, money, or equipment, calling-out posts that demonize the Native communities protesting, etc.), it seems like that might fall into the slacktivist category. Checking-in seems to be something the protestors are fine with, but it’s no substitute for donating.

Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
Read more of Dylan's work at

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