By Lauren McNelley

At some point we’ve all heard a variation of this phrase, “Kids these days don’t know how to have a conversation. They’re always on their phones. Human interaction is lost.” Being a millennial myself with older parents resulted in having mixed feelings about this theory. I would rather meet up with a friend at the mall than text all day, yet at the same time, I’ll text that friend to make the plans, as opposed to giving them a call. But something very important was pointed out to me by my fourteen-year-old cousin. One day while watching her Snap Chat back and forth with her friend, I finally asked why she didn’t just invite the friend over. That’s when she explained to me that her friend lived an hour away and they don’t often get to see each other, and Snap Chat helps them stay in touch. I then asked why not just call her or text. To which the response was “Why would I do that when I can see and hear her with Snap Chat?” That’s when it hit me, social media has rounded the corner from a seclusion device to one that allows people to have human interaction with those they may not often see. Now this concept doesn’t necessarily justify the two kids Snap Chatting each other in the same room, and it certainly isn’t a better alternative to real face to face interaction, but it does highlight a very important concept that through the various social media platforms (Snap Chat, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) we’re able to see people whom we may never meet and have experiences which we may never have with only a few clicks.

Being able to reach out and connect with people across the globe at all hours, sharing ideas and experiences; what an unbelievable power social media has! Recently we’ve seen social media used for social and legislative change. Everything from Kylie Jenner getting Snap Chat to listen to the mass public about their new format, to the moving videos of the Stoneman school shooting, resulting in a very important discussion about America’s gun laws and gun violence and a push for legislative change. President Trump uses Twitter more than any other political figure in our country’s history, and regardless of how you feel about the politics, because of Twitter you know exactly what’s happening. The Senate is even considering posting information to various social media platforms in order to connect with the public.

The power of social media can effect economic change. With one tweet Kylie Jenner was able to get Snap Chat to consider reverting back to their old format. Prior to her tweet, 1.2 million people had signed a petition on attempting to get Snap Chat to change back, but to no avail. Post tweet, Snap Chat stock dropped 6%, a $1.3 million drop in their market value.  Snap Chat ended up responding by saying they were working on a redesign. They did not state they would go back to the old format, but they have heard the various complaints about the new format and would change the issue areas.

In February of 2018, Stoneman High School in Florida had an active shooter, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. Sadly, seventeen people lost their lives. The news covered the story, but the most influential coverage was that of the students. Many had recorded the shooting on their Snap Chat’s and were sending the footage to family and friends as well as posting it to their “my story” section on the app. Eventually, some footage was shown on the news. Experiencing the horror via video moved many people and gave them a greater understanding of the severity of the situation. One such person was a man named Scott Pappalardo, who recorded a video of himself destroying his AR-15 gun by cutting it into thirds. He explained that he could not bare to think that one day his gun could do that if it fell into the wrong hands. He claimed that after the school shootings prior to Stoneman he has always felt bad and would often tell his wife that he would “turn his gun in if it meant bringing back the life of even one child.” After seeing the Stoneman shooting footage, and the pain from the survivors afterward, that was the last straw for Pappalardo. His gesture was one in which he hopes fellow gun owners will take up, coining the act as “one in the bucket.”

Following the shooting, multiple students and teachers began posting videos to Facebook advocating for stricter gun laws. In nine days, the students and faculty of Stoneman had managed to make everyone aware of the facts of the situation, convinced the Governor of Florida to raise the gun purchasing age to 21, convinced multiple retail companies to no longer sell products that benefitted the NRA, and appeared on CNN to address political leaders like Marco Rubio and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, in an effort to get stricter gun laws. Videos of parents who had lost their child began to surface as well. One father, Andrew Pollack, who lost his only daughter, went to Washington D.C. and addressed President Trump, begging him to do something about the gun laws. Stressing that, “politics don’t matter. This is simple. It isn’t hard. My daughter is dead. My boys had to bury their baby sister. We can’t let this keep happening anymore.” Multiple colleges have even showed support by informing future candidates that their college applications would not be affected if they were suspended from school for protesting.

No matter the platform or the topic, we’re seeing history unfold before our eyes. Social media has become a very powerful tool of persuasion and it’s here to stay. Although no legislative change has been made just yet, it’s aggressive presence in our lives, via social media, has made it hard to ignore and even harder to forget. We should be seeing change very soon, and if we don’t, we’ll continue to see and hear the voices of the survivors and their families until changes are made.


Bio: Lauren McNelley is a 2L at Suffolk University Law School. She received a B.A. in Philosophy, a minor in Deaf Studies, and has a concentration in Psychology from Boston University. She aspires to a career in union side labor and employment law.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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