The power to ignite change and unite people is at the fingertips of Generation Z and the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have realized social media is a powerful tool and through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, they have the power to rally thousands of people.
The March for Our Lives movement on March 24 and the National School Walkout Day on March 14 organized by the students in Parkland, Fla. have become prime examples of the power of social media
After the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that left 17 students and teachers dead, high schoolers and young adults have took to social media to not only voice their want for change, but demand it.
In Oro Valley, students at Ironwood Ridge High School participated in the National Walkout Day, just one month after the deadly shooting in Florida.
Students across the country left class and stood outside of school grounds for 17 minutes to honor each of those killed in Florida.
These Arizona students heard about a walkout that was organized by the survivors of the Parkland shooting through social media, and the use of the hashtag National Walkout Day.
The National Walkout Day hashtag has been used on Instagram over 26,000 times and the March for Our Lives hashtag has been used on Instagram over 500,000 times.
Oro Valley’s Ironwood Ridge High School students, such as Jasmine Drummer, have become part of the national movement.
“We’ve been using social media to project our voices. We also have been putting posters up little sticky notes I’ve noticed that in the hallways and the bathrooms. You know it’s a movement. We want change,” Drummer said.
While speaking about gun violence and honoring the victims was the primary purpose of the walkout, educating young voters on how to register was a goal for Ironwood Ridge Senior Reed Welsh.
He used his social media to promote not only the walkout, but a voter registration table he had set up for students who were over 18.
Ironwood student, Julian Sotelo, said social media is where he was able to see the harsh reality of the Florida shooting.
“It seems to be through twitter because that’s just kind of where our generation is getting things out. I think we’re doing a pretty good job in spreading the word and getting the information out there,” Sotelo said.
It’s not only high school students promoting these rallies, but prominent political figures and celebrities used their social media accounts to keep their millions of followers informed on the March for Our Lives rallies and National School Walkouts.
Former President, Barack Obama, took to Twitter in support of the school walkout, Bernie Sanders created a video on his Twitter page in support and also attended a school walkout.
Celebrities such as Zac Efron, Miley Cyrus and Kendall Jenner have been using their Instagrams and Twitters to promote March for Our Lives.
Speaking to a platform of millions with one press of a button commands a lot of responsibility and influence.
Irene McKisson, a social media expert and University of Arizona adjunct professor, said that social media is giving Generation Z the power to build a movement.
“Twitter is a place where a lot of the stuff… supportive and the opposite… like both supportive and against what was happening, was happening on Twitter…. In good and bad ways for these kids who are really only 17 and 18 years old and can’t even vote yet,” Mckisson said. “And yet here they are the face of this movement. Which on social it can be a good and bad thing.”
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Alexa Wallen and Gabby Goduco are reporters for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.