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Opinion Tragedies desensitize the public

Tragedies desensitize the public

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Photo by Charlie Luttrell

There is no denying that humanity has had its fair share of tragic events recently. Some might say we have had more than our fair share. In fact, there is so much violence saturating today’s media that the public’s reaction is becoming disturbingly routine.

Every time it is the same routine. A terrible event takes place, people read about it on social media, they express their horror and sympathy and then they try to forget that it ever happened.

It is not that people don’t care. They do. They are simply tired. There were 340 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone. That is nearly one for every day of the year.

How does this cycle of trauma and violence affect us as a society and as people?

A team of researchers at the University of Bradford found that exposure to violent imagery on social media can cause symptoms that are similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder. The constant stream of violent images from the media makes people feel helpless. It makes them feel vulnerable. It makes them feel scared.

When people are scared, they try to find ways to cope. With so much negativity surrounding us, people are looking for a way to feel happy, or at least ok. Many simply become desensitized to the tragedies as an unconscious coping mechanism. Most people don’t even realize that they do this.

We have gotten to a point where all we can really hope for is the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. When a tragedy happens, we ask ourselves if our families and friends are ok. If they are, that is good enough. Is this “good enough” attitude really healthy for us?

The answer is no.

According to a study by Traci A. Kennedy of the University of Pittsburgh, the repetitive cycle of violence is creating disturbing results: as people become numb to violence and tragedy, they become more likely to commit acts of violence themselves. Kennedy even found that people’s levels of empathy towards victims of violence go down after repeated exposure to violent imagery.

Our brains are not meant to process tragedy on a huge scale, so they don’t. The terrible pictures we see on our ever-present, pulsating screens begin to feel less and less real with each passing day. When the pictures start to seem less real, the real-life events do as well.

Our society is sick. It is broken. It needs help. People do not care for their fellow humans as they should. The flashing images on the news saturated with blood make us feel hopeless enough to stop caring completely.

The problem with people becoming desensitized to large-scale tragedies is that people are less interested in trying to solve the issues that caused the tragedies. The tragedies will keep repeating themselves unless we take action. Now is the time to wake up and take responsibility. All we can do is open our eyes and hope that we are not damaged beyond repair.

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