On February 14, 2018, a young man entered his former high school and gunned down 17 people, both students and faculty. This horrific event has sparked a massive debate on schools, guns, and the second amendment. With about 80% of Americans using social media today, it is no surprise that the conversation is filling feeds on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
There are many different ideas being brought up in the online discussion, some awful and others great, but there is one supporting fact being used by the pro-gun crowd that bothers me: people remember back in their high school days where guns were brought to school and stored in racks in the cab of a truck or even stored in a locker inside the school. They say that the guns were in close proximity to the school, yet no one used them on their classmates.
The tides have changed. In those same days, we saw our friends at school but each afternoon we parted and went our separate ways. We would journey back to our homes, our families, and maybe, occasionally entertain a phone call with a friend that evening. We were not constantly connected with our friends like the kids of today. Texting, snapchatting, videocalling. But do you know from who else we were separated? Bullies.
In the days before cell phones, when we left school and we went home, away from those that bullied us constantly each day. This separation gave us a reprieve, some downtime. We were given time to get away from those that sought to hurt us and to find comfort among those that loved us most.
Today, the bullies follow us everywhere through technology [1 2 3 4 5]. Instagram shows us what we are missing, giving us a glimpse into the wonderful, fabricated lives being lived by those around us. Teen depression is at an all time high and has been linked to social media usage. A perfect storm has been created where we can no longer seek solace from those that seek to torture us and at the same time, we are barraged of highlights of only the good from others’ lives.
The tides have changed. This post isn’t about creating a solution to gun violence in schools because it is a complex, difficult problem. This message is about that fact that we no longer live in the past and the solutions that worked then may not work now. We need to study the things that impact us in order to understand them. We must become digital ethnographers. We must allow government researchers and those at public and private institutions to have the academic freedom to study gun violence. We need to understand the ever-changing world around us.