There is no denying that major news outlets are always the first to publish the headlines of recent tragedies. However there has been a disturbing amount of of breaking news that has surfaced over the past few months, making it almost impossible to keep up with what new “bad” thing is going on in the world: “Hurricane Irma Pounds Puerto Rico,” “U.S. Faces Biggest Mass Shooting in Las Vegas,” “Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by More Than 80 Celebrities,” “Manhattan Truck Kills 8 in Terror Attack,” “At Least 26 Dead in Texas Church Shooting,” and the list continues to grow every day. The problem that we face, however, is that these tragedies really are just another headline.
Think about it, the Las Vegas shooting happened just over a month ago, and was declared as the nation’s worst mass shooting in our history. A few prayers and condolences later, and there is another one, this time at a church in Texas. The media covered these events, almost back to back, but has since moved on. But does that mean we should too?
The American people have become desensitized.
Another day, another tragedy, another tweet expressing their sympathy, and then it is over until the next one. When did we become blind to what is really going on? Was it when we decided that terrorism was always going to exist? When we condemned hate groups and nationalists, but refused to cooperate on our politics? And perhaps the most important question, when will we decide enough is enough?
I remember one of the first times that a news story really struck me. It was on November 13, 2015, when a series of terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. I read the headlines, watched the videos of people fleeing in the streets, and like everyone else, offered a piece of my heart to a country I had never been to. It was as if the entire world stopped, and everybody put their arms around one another, because we knew that this was not what life was supposed to be like.
However that ideal was soon disregarded by several more disturbing headlines, leading us to where we are now: waist high in stories about sexual assault allegations, mass shootings, more frequent terror attacks, nationalist riots, and a country that cannot seem to find a solution to any of these issues without politics having the first word.
And while everybody takes the time to hear what the reporters have to say, nobody is really listening- because we are not supposed to be living in a world where such terrible things happen so often, right? So then why does the media tell us differently? And why have we let it get to the point where another celebrity who has been a victim to sexual assault is really just another celebrity who is a victim of sexual assault?
This constant cycle of violent news creates adverse effects that no one realizes is happening.
We ended 2016 with “that was a rough year,” and new hopes that 2017 would be different. However we soon learned that although things did change, they were not for the better. Nobody likes starting the day with their phone vibrating with a news alert about whatever new tragic thing is occurring in the world, but these days we almost expect it to.
We live in a highly digitalized world, where broadcasts of violence are instantaneous. The constant stream of news has inevitably desensitized us to their content because there is a sense of powerlessness that comes with so much bad news at one time. People feel that, because these incidents are no longer rarely-occurring, there is nothing they can do about it anymore since another shooting, attack, or sexual assault victim will be broadcasted tomorrow.
We have lost our voice, our sense of empathy and pain, as it gets drowned out by the reporters on the t.v. and the red “Breaking News” alert below them.
The bottom line is that the more we allow ourselves to become all too familiar with violent headlines, the more we will allow them to happen.
There was a time when no one could wrap their mind around how someone could drive a truck into a crowd of people, or how a man could sexually assault over 80 women in his lifetime. Some recall Columbine, and how we as a country spent day after day after the attack, asking ourselves, why? We searched for the answers, demanding them at times, but it is clear now that so long as we do not find one, we can only wait for the next “breaking news” alert on our phones to remind us that there never will be.
This country will inevitably endure more acts of violence before this year is over.
How do I know that? Because the media has taught me it. I’ve learned the pattern: Terrorist attack, politics, oh look, another shooting, terrorist attack, etc. And while the nation will continue to pause for a brief moment, and the officials will respond with their condolences, and the people will post their prayers on social media, we are all just waiting to do it again tomorrow.
There is, however, something we can do about this.
Instead of constantly checking our phones whenever a news alert goes off, or listening to the T.V. while a news anchor announces the latest tragedy, we can channel our attention to more positive outlets. Read a book, go on a walk, remind your family that you love them, research something fascinating and then tell us all about it, have an intelligent conversation with your friends about deep, ambiguous subjects.
There is a different world out there that is not covered by the news, beyond the headlines, and it is vital that we never lose sight of it. The tragedies and unfortunate events that occur are nevertheless still important for us to acknowledge, for they remind us that this life is imperfect and there is a larger demand for the goodness in mankind rather than the bad.1