Editorial: Shooting the shooting

Analyzing teen's use of social media in a mass shooting

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Among the Valentine’s Snapchats of smiling couples, Insta-worthy chocolates and roses was an unfiltered video, with the caption: “Our f*cking school is being shot up.”

The snap came from a student in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. where, in less than ten minutes, a 19-year-old former student using an AR-15 rifle took the lives of 17 people; 14 of the victims were students 18 and under.

The snapchatter filmed others crouched to the ground in his classroom, hiding beneath their desks. At the first gunshot, his arm jumped, shaking the camera, as he cursed and a horror-movie wail filled the halls atop rapid gunfire. Another snap, in a compilation by the New York Times, contained students huddled in the corner of an orange-walled classroom being blinded by SWAT teams ash lights, the officers demanding “put your phones away!”

From the generation that grew up with social media — where documenting and sharing moments of their lives was the norm — came unintentional-behind-the-scenes glimpses the news cameras wish they could call their own. Even in a life or death situation, those attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas felt the inclination to document what was happening online.

A lot of students were on their phones, reported an unnamed student interviewed by the New York Times on the event. Some learned what was going on from the headlines they read on their devices, while other students who’ve lived through shootings themselves talked trapped and scared students through it.

The use of social media to bear witness to and document their experiences allowed the teenagers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas to not only provide real-time updates of what they were encountering to friends and family, but also gave them some control over what was happening. By recording those moments, disturbing as they may be, they shared a narrative of disturbing reality that could not be censored or ignored. Even through a phone screen, Americans were confronted with the realization that they can no longer be numb to recurring mass shootings.

After Snapchat came Twitter.

The students responded to people like President Donald Trump and conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, who refused to acknowledge that this was a gun control problem. They vocalized their outrage at becoming another statistic in this mass shooting epidemic, asking for gun control instead of condolences and prayers.

“My friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But Gun control will prevent it from happening again.” tweeted 16-year-old Sarah Chadwick, in response to President Trump’s twitter statement. Before Chadwick deleted the tweet, which contained profanity, she had received twice as many likes as Trump’s tweet of sympathy, reported Florida Today.

These students are responding in the only way they — and even our president — know how to: with social media. These teenagers inherited a systemic issue of failing to act when these tragedies occur. So this time, they are refusing to accept the empty condolences and prayers.

When handed a microphone, David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas held back anger as he said: “We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”

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The Muhlenberg Weekly's Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor(s) and Section Editors, one of whom writes the editorial. Material appearing without a byline represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

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