It’s obvious the once-forgotten town of Williston, a dusty little placed nestled in North Dakota’s back pocket, is undergoing some major changes spurred from the oil boom. Finding housing to accommodate the influx of residents is at an unprecedented high. But that’s not the only thing changing.
Williston’s like most other small towns in North Dakota. Everyone knows your business before you even do. Comparatively, Williston is considered a “city” in North Dakota, with a population of around 13,000 before the oil boom. (Williston’s not expected to stop growing anytime soon, as space for another 4,500 people in man camps is being planned.) Still, somehow everyone either knows everyone or knows of everyone through the grapevine. You know that whole six degrees of separation thing? Williston natives probably have about one or two degrees of separation from one another, at a generous estimate.
Still, Williston’s always seemed a little behind the curve. Up until a few years ago, the few radio stations that didn’t play country almost exclusively played music from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Because of this, I know every word to songs like “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts and “Missin’ You” by John Waite. (Most non-country stations have since shifted to Rock or Top 40 formats.) For these reasons, in the few years since I moved away, I’m happy to see the Williston Herald, the local newspaper, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau get online — even on Facebook.
More and more social media sites are being put into place to get people familiar with the city, since many who come from around the nation had no idea Williston even existed until they heard about the job availability. WillistonWire is an e-Newsletter that compiles all Williston-related news from surrounding news outlets. One of my friends has recently created a forum for Willistonites called Williston Basin Forum to gather and weigh in on issues that affect them.
Facebook pages surrounding Williston have been popping up for a while. They never seem to pick up much speed, but one in particular caught my eye. Called Williston Rumor Mill, it definitely perpetuates the online component of the city’s physical rumor mill that churns daily. Some people take it really seriously, while others post outlandish joking rumors. Regardless, it’s updated often by users and has 912 fans (and counting). Taking a look at the page, it’s pretty much the Facebook version of my high school experience. And I think that’s what makes it so interesting.
While I’m sure social media has been a great way for people new to the area to make connections, it’s definitely got a creepy factor. Growing up, Williston was never really a haven for creeps. From the time we were about eight until we got our drivers’ licenses, my best friends and I would ride our bikes throughout town all day, going to stores and restaurants without having to worry about traffic, let alone creepers.
But today, girls my age who still live in town often say how many inappropriate comments they get from guys of all ages, even just going to Wal-Mart (the only major store in town). Even six hours away, I periodically get Facebook messages from guys moving to the Williston area for oil work, sometimes asking for me to be their “friend” and “show them around,” and sometimes just saying things like, “Yo hun I’m moving to Williston! What’s yo number so I can get atchu?!” Creepers.
The times, they are a-changing in Williston and surrounding areas, and it’s interesting to hear about its evolution from friends and family and see the transformation myself when I make my seldom visits.
What do you think about the changes happening in Williston, whether you’re from there or not? What have your experiences been?