NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Students use social media to speak up, stay informed

In the wake of the George Floyd protests and the unrest that occurred as a result, social media became an increasingly valuable resource and played a vital role when it came to organizing and coordinating protests.

Though social media being used as a tool for political activism is nothing new this was the largest event in recent history in which it was so widely utilized for both the spread of information, and second by second updates, live from the scenes in Minnesota andother cities across the United States.

Several local march attendees and students can attest to the influence social media had on them when it came to both learning and organizing, and the unique influence social media content related to the protests had on them.

“It was really crazy, especially right after the video came out and started going around,” said student Nicholas Currie- who attended a march in Boston last year. “We were getting updated every minute on what was happening in the city, but by the time the riots started up later that night it was kinda hard to tell if everything they were saying on twitter was actually happening or not. Getting out of the city was hard because people were saying they were shuttingdown the T and people were panicking. It was a really bad situation.”

The inclusion of the chaos that ensued as a result of unclear information raises an interesting point regarding the instant, unverifiable coverage provided on social media and the consequences it can have. What once would have been vetted by a newspaper can now be published instantly.

This becomes especially concerning when turbulent situations that depend on accuratereporting are subject to false information that can lead to intense panic. What starts as a rumor can end up having a major impact on a crowd and the decisions they make in the moment toavoid a perceived threat.

Although many are aware of the downsides of social media and the potentially false information that can be spread as a result, it’s also worth noting the methods in which social media help encourage social change and help people not necessarily in the immediate area to understand current events and the context behind them.

The protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder were ignited by the release of the video of the murder itself.

Many people who otherwise wouldn’t have been spurred to action were moved by the spread of the video itself

Although the spread of falsehoods can be seen as a negative due to the misinformation that can be spread, it’s also important to remember the potential it has to make activism more dynamic and less reliant on planning, creating new potential for community action and thespread of otherwise obscure information.

Student Sean Bailey described the experience as “shocking, watching the people there not doing anything made me realize how important it is to be active and protest. I’d never reallybeen to any type of march before, but after that I would’ve felt guilty if I didn’t do anything; I’mreally grateful that I was able to be there in that moment because there’s nothing like it.”

Theworldwide outcry that occurred is an indicative of the power of social media and the impact media can have in the same manner articles and op-eds can.

Even those not necessarily willing or able to take to the streets admit to the influence thesocial media had on them

“I don’t really watch tv or cable news, so social media was reallyimportant when all that was going on,” said Christian Merino. ‘I’m glad I was able to just see the live footage, seeing edited versions on the news wouldn’t have made me feel as much as I did. Looking back it was really wild seeing what was happening minute by minute in the street, especially when the president started commenting on it through twitter.

Although opinions vary greatly on social media and its impact on the news cycle, it’s necessary to weigh the opinions of people actually at the scene relying on social media itself to be informed before official news organizations can provide verification.