How our community’s mass shooting changed my mind about Twitter

This week’s shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall happened in the heart of our school district.

One of our students was shot and remains in serious condition. Another student’s uncle was killed. Untold numbers of our students, staff and their families were among the 10,000 holiday shoppers and employees in the mall at the time of the incident. Our community remains in shock.

Before the shooting, I figured I had my social media bases covered with Facebook. I wasn’t sure I needed Twitter. After the shooting, I changed my mind.

Here’s why.

Twitter is now a mainstream information source:
In the first hour of a crisis, information gathering is key. Much was rumor, but some was fact. Twitter was a go-to source for breaking news, with sources ranging from the Sheriff’s office to the news media. During and after the mall shooting, a lot of information we needed first surfaced on Twitter.

Twitter is a research tool:
Following the event hash tag (#ClackamasShooting), I was able to tweet a personal question to a friend of a victim on Twitter. She confirmed the identity of the injured survivor, our student.

Twitter is where teens live:
If our students are there, we need to be there, too. One of our students posted inappropriate comments about the incident on his Twitter feed. Many respondents were angry, and made threats against him. Knowing this, we were able to have district staff and his friends contact him immediately. They urged him to make a public apology and then to log off.

Twitter is a lifeline:
With 10,000 people in the mall at the time of the shooting, people across our community used this tool to get quickly in contact with loved ones. Whether they discovered their loved ones had safely left the building or were protected by the lock down, they were relieved to hear the news quickly.

Twitter is a rumor mill:
This is the way to find out what the community is saying and feeling during an incident. What better place to correct misinformation than at the place where rumors spread?

Responding to this situation, we used all the tools in our toolbox, including auto-dial phone calls, parent emails, Facebook, the website, our list serve and the telephone.

Twitter was our tool of choice for on-the-go, up-to-the-minute information and rumor control in an evolving situation. I need this tool. The next step is to use it more to master the medium and explore new ways to use it.  I encourage you to do the same.

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One thought on “How our community’s mass shooting changed my mind about Twitter

  1. I’ve really been thinking a lot about the usefulness (or not) of Twitter in the past few months . . . you have tipped the scale for me . . . thank you for sharing this AND taking care of your district like you did!

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