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Violent news takes psychological toll

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This past summer countless news outlets across the world reported on horrific events, from the nightclub shooting in Orlando to the various incidents of police brutality to terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS. Because of how connected our world has become in the age of social media, we are exposed to every single one of these events.

There is a growing sentiment that the world is more violent now than ever before. However, I would argue that that may not be the case. We may just have a false perception of the world because of the intense media coverage of tragic events. In 2014, President Obama stated that the world “has always been messy.” He pointed out that we are more cognizant of these happenings today because of the connectivity and intimacy that accompanies social media. In the 20th century, the world endured many violent wars, the Holocaust and terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks that occurred across the world in the 20th century are largely forgotten in part because of a lack of coverage. For instance, the World Trade Center was not bombed for the first time on September 11th, 2001. There was a bomb detonated in the building back in 1993. Surely it was not as devastating, but the intent for violence was certainly present back then as well.

Our world has always been violent. However, now that the average person has easy access to videos of violence, we should be concerned with how these videos can affect us psychologically. This increased exposure to violence can have detrimental effects on viewers, even if in reality there has been no change in the amount of violence ocurring. Especially with social media, the footage is often unedited and there is little to no warning that you are about to see gruesome content. This could be traumatizing for some individuals, with an additional risk of desensitizing them to violent acts.

When hearing about the events of Sandy Hook in 2012 just four years ago, people across the United States were shaken. By the end of this summer, hearing of an instance of police brutality came as no surprise to anyone and many people probably didn’t think much of it. Is the constant connectedness of social media dehumanizing us in a way that makes us less compassionate towards tragedies and horrific acts? Even so, is there any way to reduce the amount of violent footage on the internet without censoring important material which helps citizens increase their awareness of the world?

Maybe our world has grown severely more violent in recent years, but conflict has been present in our world for centuries. So it seems that advances in technology and media have sparked the increase in coverage of these events, rather than an increase in violence itself.

The question our society needs to answer moving forward is how we should display and communicate about these events. Right now it is too easy for young children to view this material. With social media growing everyday, the way explicit material is presented is also a growing issue. The picture painted by news should be an accurate reflection of events, but it is possible that we are showing too much violence in the media. It’s a difficult situation because people have the right to know about these events, but too much exposure could be detrimental to our health. With our world becoming more globally connected each day, the issue of how violence is portrayed is something our society will have to deal with moving forward.

Connor Yahn ’18 (yahn1@stolaf.edu) is from Orlando, Fla. He majors in economics.