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Social Media And It’s Grip on University Students

November 10, 2014

I consider myself an active member of what I like to call, “Generation 5 Minutes Ago.” We are those people who don’t possess that patience to wait 3 minutes for a Netflix movie to load or for our computers to connect to the Internet and we are also those individuals who do not like waiting to hear about breaking news.
We are the ones who get our news, not from the paper or TV but from Twitter and Facebook. If we don’t know the answer to a pressing question, we Google it and are given an immediate response. This is the world in which we cut our teeth and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

On Sunday, the University of Alabama shut down and searched Tutwiler Hall after reports of an anonymous threat against the women in that dorm surfaced on YouTube. Campus police learned of the threat through the parents of a student at the University and responded quickly but students were not given details of the event until after midnight, nearly two hours after the students learned of the situation online.

I think that is why the students living at Tutwiler Hall and members of the Greek system at the University of Alabama have become so inflamed. Being members of Generation 5 Minutes Ago, it’s hard for them to understand why it would take so long to receive details concerning a threat that was very real for them, even if a present danger was unfounded.

There is a real generation gap between the students and school officials. Students rely on the real-time streaming of news and information and those from different generations have not quite grasped that. That’s not to say they aren’t working on it or aren’t providing for our needs, they are and my experience has been that, schools genuinely want to keep students as informed and safe as possible but perhaps lack the manpower to do that as effectively as we would like.

When I was in undergrad, our school was testing out a new system that sent text messages to students alerting them of present dangers such as fire drills, earthquakes, and when the school is placed on locked down.

These text messages were annoying most of the time, especially for silly things like fire drills and the ever present earthquakes but when they were really needed, like in 2012 when the school was placed on lock down because an armed robber was loose on the campus, it was amazing to know what was going on and to feel like the school was doing its part to keep us aware of the situations.

I can see that this might also be a double-edged sword in that police and school officials probably don’t want to stir panic unnecessarily. This is probably why they held off saying anything to the students for two hours when after searching for 45 minutes they found no indication of weapons or danger. However, the University should understand that their students have grown up with endless access to information for every situation that has arisen and this one would not be an exception.

If I were a student at the University of Alabama, I would rather know from police and school officials than have to find out online on my own. When left to my own devices, I will always jump to the worst-case scenario. At least if it came from the school they could set the stage to quell the fears of students and parents rather than leave them speculating.

Additionally, for a member of Generation 5 Minutes Ago, waiting is the worst form of torture that could be inflicted upon us, especially waiting for news that will directly affect us in an adverse way. Students on campus are still expressing fear over the threats from this weekend.

This is another tribute to the power that social media has for those of us who grew up in the Internet age. Students of this generation are information-hungry and school officials and police in Alabama should address those needs especially in attempting to get the school back to normal.