Many students following their first war in real time, thanks to social media

In this photo provided by Yurii Kochubei, a view of the damage after shelling inside a sports complex, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Yurii Kochubei via AP)

By Alyson Hatfield

Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

This is not the first historic event that college students would have lived through but this is the first time these students have seen the beginning of a major war.

So are students actively following what is happening and more importantly do they care? The answer at least anecdotally seems to be yes.

“I care deeply about the situation because of the civilian casualties,” said Jay Hynes, a junior Political Science major. And how is he hearing about the daily developments? “The only news I get out of Ukraine would be the tweets from the president.”

Hynes raises a good point. Social media platforms such as Twitter are how many people get their news now and with this war especially.

Freshman criminal justice major Ali Pizarro noted that “the only info I’ve gotten [about the war] has been from social media.”

These platforms allow people to see firsthand what is happening on the ground in Ukraine. People such as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian citizens are sharing firsthand what they are experiencing there. This is something that has not been seen in past wars: People sharing videos of themselves hiding in the subway stations because there are threats of air raids and showing planes flying overhead amid the sound of warning sirens.

“I haven’t actively been seeking out information [about the war], however, it has been almost impossible to fall behind in the news. Every time I open social media there is new information about the invasion,” sophomore Professional Writing major Alex Merritt said.

This can make people more empathetic toward what the Ukrainians are feeling in a way that they would not get if the updates were only provided through the evening news.

Vic Tsygan, a junior Human Resource Management major said, “I have family in both Ukraine and Russia … I am trying my best to not get too overwhelmed with the news because it’s pretty scary. So I’m not following it too closely, but I am trying to spread the word that it is a serious subject and not to joke about it.”

Ukrainian soldiers carry babies helping a fleeing family to find a vehicle after crossing the Irpin river in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Tsygan’s comment brings up another important point: Social media is often used as a platform to share funny jokes and memes between friends, but this war is a real-life topic that is affecting people around the globe; there is nothing humorous about it.

Several students admitted that it has been difficult to follow the day-to-day news from Ukraine amid the responsibilities of school and work. “It has been hard to keep up with what is going on because school has kept me so busy recently,” junior Human Services major Destiny Herrington said.

Alyson Hatfield is a sophomore majoring in political science and minoring in public relations.

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