By Melanie Morales, Contributor
When it comes to being notified about possible safety threats on campus, students expect their school to be the first to alert them. However, some students rely more on social media as an emergency alert source, rather than their own academic institutions.
On Dec. 10, 2018, many Cal State Northridge students were made aware of a possible school shooting that would take place on Dec. 12. This information was first shared on social media after a note was found on campus warning students of a planned mass shooting. Many users spread posts containing images of notes and messages that used anti-Semitic language and symbols which were found in buildings on campus. Soon it made trending lists for sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
“All of the threats that CSUN has gotten [have] come to my attention through social media,” said Aileen Olivas, a sophomore at CSUN studying communication disorders. “My friends saw it on social media and then sent it to me, and even my mom found it on her Facebook page and she doesn’t even go to CSUN, so it spread fairly quickly.”
"Our safety is way more important than our grades."
Many students, already stressed about their final exams, felt even more worried for their safety when they learned that they were still required to go to campus for their finals. Despite having an option for an alternative final exam format, the school hesitated to close campus due to the situation’s “lack of credibility,” and students were concerned.
“I just think it’s insane how the school wasn’t closed completely this entire week. Our safety is way more important than our grades,” said Olivas. “Even if the threats are a hoax, they should be taken seriously because huge communities at CSUN are being targeted due to the campus’ diversity.”
Now more than ever, social media has become an immediate alert system that works with other users and platforms to gain and disseminate information. Social media has also allowed for groups to come together to support and spread awareness of issues that target various communities.
“I think social media helps alert people because it is one of the fastest ways to spread information,” said Daniela Torres, liberal studies major at CSUN. “I even got some information faster than school announcements.”
Due to its rapid spread of information and accessibility, it’s no wonder that students have turned to social media for updates on just about everything, including aspects of their education and safety on school campuses.
“We are aware that photos of this hateful language, symbols and the threat are being widely shared on social media, causing significant concern among our community,” said Anne Glavin, Chief of Police at CSUN.
Social media is a very powerful tool in today’s world and will only become stronger as institutions discover its many features that promote transparency, support, inclusion, availability of information and its impact on their communities.
It’s the presence of social media that allows users to collectively help spread awareness of and prevent frightening events like this one because let’s face it, no one should have to fear for their life when simply attempting to receive an education.
If you or someone you know was affected by this situation, please seek help through individual or support group therapy programs provided by your school’s counseling and psychological services center, or through your medical provider. For more information and advice on how to be prepared in the event of an active shooter, please refer to this article by The New York Times.