It is important to note that the primary media circulating this news are not just television and newspapers anymore, but also social media platforms and online news sources. These new media, including Snapchat, Facebook Live, Twitter, and online blogs, have made the spread of information about mass shootings nearly effortless.
It is no coincidence that connections have been made between social media milestones and mass shooting numbers in the United States. This study analyzed social media platforms, online news sources, and mass shooting archives to determine the relationship between two variables: the spread of mass shooting news on social media platforms and the increase in these crimes.
Throughout the data collection phase of this study, it was important to consider two specific factors: how the different media eras have affected the coverage of mass shootings, and how social media have influenced the frequency of these events in the digital age.
To address the first factor, an analysis of media activity and involvement from three historical mass shootings was conducted, specifically focusing on how news was spread among media platforms and how the public used social media as a communication tool during and after the event. The way in which these shootings were portrayed within the media at the time was of particular importance. This study focused on the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Parkland shootings because these mass shootings took place during three different points in social media’s evolution. When the infamous Columbine High School shooting occurred in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999, social media platforms did not exist, forcing the public to get a majority of their news from newspapers, radio, and television (Hale, 2015).