School shooting survivor and gun control activist Emma González joined Twitter this month with the handle @Emma4Change, to advocate for sensible gun laws after 17 students and faculty were gunned down at her Florida high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, on February 14.
So far, she has tweeted 528 times, with many of her tweets and RTs directed at the National Rifle Association. In a short, but tumultuous, period of time, she has built up over 1 million followers.
The NRA — which González, her classmates, and many students around the country are taking on as part of a burgeoning youth movement — joined Twitter in February 2009. That's nine years before González did. The organization's current Twitter-follower count? 596,000.
Twitter isn't everything, but the brief time in which González and her classmates have built up huge followings is a testament to the power of their message. The weekend after the shooting, González called BS on lawmakers' "thoughts and prayers" in a hard-to-forget speech tinged with a very welcome, refreshing anger. Countless rallies and school walkouts followed nationwide. The Florida students have met with lawmakers, and González took on the NRA's spokesperson Dana Loesch (787,000 Twitter followers) in a CNN townhall on gun violence.
Undoubtedly, social media is part of the reason the students' message has resonated so far and wide. González' fellow #NeverAgain activist Jackie Corin also joined Twitter this month and has 67,000 followers. Kali Clougherty has over 20,000. David Hogg has 362,000. Cameron Kasky has 243,000.
The call to march in Washington, D.C., and around the nation, on March 24 originated and spread on social media with #MarchforOurLives, and so did the #WhatIf campaign, in which you can watch Jackie Corin below.
With her trademark shaved head, González has become the visual icon of the movement — people have even created drawings and other depictions of her. But the reality is students, especially students of color, have been fighting for gun reform for years. And what really matters to them aren't Twitter followers or drawings — though those both help propel the movement — but keeping more kids from dying.