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How social media is changing the game

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Hayfield students lock arms during a school walkout on March 14, 2018.

Hayfield students lock arms during a school walkout on March 14, 2018.

Shannon Tran

Shannon Tran

Hayfield students lock arms during a school walkout on March 14, 2018.

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Huddling in the corner of a classroom with the lights off and the doors locked for a drill feels too forced, almost unrealistic, when practiced. There are whispers, light from phone screens and an air of impatience. While the lockdown drill feels artificial, students now more than ever recognize that the situation of an active shooter is a possibility. Teenagers only recall a post-9/11 era, one riddled with terrorist attacks and shootings with mass casualties, and seeing smiling headshots of fellow teens slain by an assault rifle while in a supposedly safe environment is an all too common occurrence.

The shooting in Parkland, Fl. on Feb. 14 left 17 students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School dead, and while neither the deadliest shooting of Donald Trump’s time in office nor the deadliest school shooting in history, it has already broken ritual from the tired narrative of thoughts and prayers and inevitable silence until the next shooting.

Less than a month after the tragedy, surviving students have voiced their opinions, taken on conservative critics and swayed public opinion toward stricter gun control. This unexpected nationwide reaction has been led by a generation raised in a digital world and ready to be the catalyst of change.

“The shooting was more than a month ago, but social media and constant news coverage has kept it relevant,” sophomore Chris Stevens said. “As long as people continue to talk about it, it will stay fresh in people’s minds.”

This shooting, unlike the others, flooded social media almost immediately. Those trapped in Marjory Stoneman Douglas recorded gunshots, tweeted and posted about what they were experiencing, leaving the country watching in horrified fascination. Survivors have gained a loyal social media following and have been verified on Twitter, adding to their legitimacy and ensuring that their points are not dismissed.

“I continuously hear about [Parkland] at school. I think this is a perfect example of social media benefiting us positively,” freshman Susan Culbreth said. “So many people are passionate about this stance on gun control, and as long as we keep tweeting, posting and sharing, this will stay a present issue in the world.”

Maggie Markon
Protesters rally in front of the Capital building on March 24, 2018, at the March for our Lives.

There have been catastrophic school shootings in the past, most famously Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, but the temporary impacts slowly faded as life continued. The effects of Parkland, in contrast, have lost almost no momentum almost two months after the shooting. A strong push for stricter gun laws both in individual states and across the nation has been led by survivors and other teens who want to take their safety into their own hands. They call for not only online protests, but for school walkouts as well.

 

“I think what we have to be careful of [regarding the walkouts] is that you can’t do it so much that your message becomes diluted,” Principal Martin Grimm said. “If people continuously walkout, the naysayers may say that students just want to get out of class, and that’s just not true. Walkouts here and there are a good way to start [a movement], but you can’t maintain it. The question has to be ‘What’s next?’”

A significant step in the gun control push took place on March 24, 2018, when thousands participated in the March for our Lives in D.C. and thousands more took part in sister marches around the world. The news coverage and accompanying social media posts supported the rally’s goal– never be silent.

Much like the social media movement “Time’s Up,” the “Never Again” movement has taken to mainstream media to identify a problem in the country and make a change. The teachers, students and parents involved are unified in their desire to make schools safer, not only for this generation but for those to come. The determination to change guns laws has spread and the appeal for more extensive background checks, higher age requirements and the outright ban of assault rifles is as strong as ever.

“The biggest thing about this shooting is that the students have felt this differently, and I think that’s good,” Grimm said. “Change always comes from young people. I think that maybe it’s been enough. This is statistically the safest place to be, and students should feel safe here, but we have to know that what happened [in Parkland] can happen here. It can happen anywhere.”

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