A tragedy recently hit home for us Bay Area residents on April 3rd when an active shooter took to the YouTube campus in San Bruno. Her motive? YouTube allegedly restricting her channel’s views. The result? Innocent people injured and the shooter’s reputation publicly tarnished.  In February, Parkland classmates banded together to start the Never Again movement largely on social media. The motive? Seeking justice through gun reform in reaction to Parkland’s gruesome shooting. The result? Not only was there local reform in Florida, there was a national movement in solidarity with those students, where children walked out of class to show their support. And it doesn’t end there. The Parkland students are continuing their efforts to impact change on the national level and are currently planning their next move. There is power behind every person’s voice but how we use it determines its effectiveness. Violence gets attention, but nonviolence creates change. Both parties received attention but only one made headway towards effecting real change. As a leader in non-violent practices, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” In fact, it’s statistically proven: “nonviolent campaigns combined complete and partial success rate was approximately 73% while the comparable violent rate was about 33%.”

Today, there are too many outlets available to us to not take advantage of the voice that we have and these outlets also provide us a variety of opportunity to leverage non-violence. Social media projects our voice far and wide, is available to anyone and can start conversation. Live videos on Facebook and Instagram broadcast our thoughts and feelings while in the moment, capturing both words and action.

Hashtags can build momentum by involving others, starting a movement. By liking, sharing, or retweeting we can show our support for others through these platforms. Outside of social media, we can write letters to our political figures, petitioning and speaking our minds to an authority figure who has the power to create change. Not sure who to contact in your area? Click here to find your local representative and ways to contact them.

In recent events, marches have taken the nation by storm, not only building strength through social media, but having local and national media coverage as well. We have seen great demonstration of non-violence from the recent walk-outs in response to gun reform and the national Women’s March. Even though intangible, there is value in forming a movement that unifies people through a common act – it inspires, energizes and sustains the movement, reminding everyone why they are there, why they care, and why they must continue the fight. It is a duty to exercise your right to freedom of speech, but no one has the right to conduct it in a violent way. To be effective, we must stay informed so we can have our voices valued as a force in conversation but with all the avenues available to us today, it’s an injustice to stand quiet.

We must value this great power of voice by nurturing it with education, fueling it with passion, and respecting it with responsibility. After all, a voice is only as important as the conversation that it’s in, and with violence, there is no conversation.