When you hear something through the pipeline, check your source

By Jamie Linton , Columnist

lintonjamie_cutoutYou may have recently noticed an influx of Facebook friends checking-in to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

If you reacted the same way I did, you were probably very confused and a bit disoriented as to what huge event you missed out west.

After a bit of research, I concluded that this phenomenon was just one of the political social media booms that come around every so often.

The Standing Rock protest is against the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline that would transfer oil from the Dakotas into refineries in the Midwest, Gulf Coast and East Coast, in case you missed the thousands of shares and solidarity statements with the Sioux Tribe on your newsfeed.

Protesters have filed complaints that the construction of this pipeline would contaminate the tribe’s water supply, as well as areas sacred to the tribe including religiously significant land.  

Nearly 700,000 people have “liked” the Standing Rock Indian Reservation Landmark Facebook page and a little over 1.6 million users have “checked-in” to the protest as of Thursday afternoon.  

The purpose of this “check-in” was not only to serve as digital support for the protestors but to “overwhelm and confuse” police who were rumored to be tracking protesters who checked-in to the area.

Although the overwhelming support for the Dakota Pipeline protesters has united over a million supporters, and likely prompted millions of others to educate themselves on the issue, this event is an indicator of just how influential social media can be on political movements — and this isn’t always a good thing.  

Millions of possibly uniformed social media users are spreading information to the masses due to social media’s creation of a herd mentality in terms of vocalizing one’s support for trendy social justice issues.

Herein lies the problem: with the spread of this information comes dangerous territory of mass communicating incorrect information just because it is available to us, especially if it will increase one’s social standing as morally superior to their peers.

However, showing sympathy for various causes and support for political candidates on social media does next to nothing if you don’t have a significant following and aren’t physically doing anything to ameliorate the issue.  

Additionally, it is important to understand the arguments of either side of an issue before publicly announcing your support for one.

The ease with which our society spreads information mixes dangerously with the constant pressure to be socially aware. This effect is compounded when so much information is fabricated, and few people are bothering to review its credibility.

To be frank, although many social media-based political and social justice movements have created more good than bad, students should realize their downfalls and where exactly these issues are stemming from.  

If you’re going to subscribe to a herd mentality, at least get to know your shepherd.

Jamie is a freshman in Media. 

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