Researchers examined social media response to 2019 campus shooting

Researchers examined social media response to 2019 campus shooting
Monday, January 23, 2023

Faculty members from the College of Health and Human Services and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences studied the social media response to the campus shooting that occurred in April 2019.

In an article published by PLOS One, Jessamyn Moxie, associate professor, public health sciences; Erika Montanaro, assistant professor, psychological science; Rob Cramer, Irwin Belk Distinguished Scholar in Health Research; Annelise Mennicke, associate professor, social work; and Jennifer Langhenrichsen-Rohling, professor of psychological science; analyzed how emotions and responses on Twitter changed in the days following the shooting.

The researchers concluded that Twitter remains a popular and responsive platform for information-sharing and daily chatter. “It can be a temperature gauge on what the public thinks about a topic. When incidents such as mass shootings occur, we can identify opportunities for intervention based on Twitter trends discussing the event,” noted Bowling, Cramer and Mennicke in a co-authored piece on the College of Health and Human Services website.

“We analyzed over 16,000 tweets related to the incident and found that negative emotions like anger, numbness, disgust, sadness (e.g. “When will #EnoughisEnough actually be enough?”) peaked in the day following the shooting while positive emotions like hope, appreciation, humor (e.g. “UNCC shooter being taken away, hope everyone is safe”) peaked one day later.

Tweets also contained other content, such as sharing information or offering a communal response. Information sharing, which peaked the day after the incident, came in the form of sharing local news reports (e.g. “BREAKING: At least 6 people taken to hospital after shooting at the University of North Carolina – WCNC-TV”), with far fewer people sharing information provided by official UNC Charlotte entities.”

The study’s findings highlight a broader need for campuses to have comprehensive “postvention” plans that integrate social media to deliver news and factually accurate information, provide information about available resources and support, and link to action steps and plans, the researchers stated. “Often, universities are slow to respond publicly in these crises on social media, which creates a void that can further harm those affected.”