Student activism through social media elicits corporate response


Graphic by Rebecca Hirsh.

By Rebecca Hirsh

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham wrote on Twitter Mar. 28, mocking school shooting survivor and activist David Hogg.

In response, Hogg mounted an entire Twitter campaign to get advertisers to pull their ads from Ingraham’s weeknight political talk show. And companies listened. Office Depot, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Wayfair, Nestlé and Nutrish have all pulled their ads from the show, according to an NBC News article.

This is just one example of the power of social media in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students nationwide have taken to social media alongside the Parkland students to demand gun control and encourage more elected officials and companies to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.

More than a dozen companies have already minimized or ended business partnerships with the organization, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart—the nation’s largest gun seller—who announced Feb. 28 they will no longer sell guns to customers under 21 or assault rifles, among other restrictions.

From hundreds of thousands attending the March For Our Lives in D.C.—an event organized through Facebook only a month after the shooting—to students sharing a phone number to text and find out how much representatives and senators receive from the NRA, teenagers’ actions have effected change.

“It is a lot easier to connect and reach out to people because we’re active on social media,” gun control school walkout organizer Daniel Gelillo, a Richard Montgomery High School senior, said. “Young people are a lot more enthusiastic about getting out and being energized.”

In response to the distancing, the NRA released a statement Feb. 24 condemning corporations that have “decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”

Many students are encouraged by the results so far and feel social media has been the key to success as it provides a method of quick and easy mobilization, junior Ethan Gilman said.

“This has become an issue that affects every single student, and these students want to—and have the ability to—do what they can to make sure it never happens again,” Gilman said. “Politicians cutting ties with the NRA is an important first step in the fight toward successful gun control. With the NRA in the pockets of our politicians, they will continue to act in the best interest of the NRA instead of the best interest of America.”

Teens are inspired by others’ actions and educated about issues when activism and protests are shared on social media, senior Saul Singleton said.

“What we see on social media influences us so much that we’ll want to follow in the footsteps of others,” he said. “The younger generation is taking charge, and the internet is a great way to find a community of support. People are using social media for change for the better. There’s no way the NRA can ignore this kind of activism.”