Published on October 20th, 2017 | by Nora Farahdel


Have we become numb to mass shootings?

It seems like attacks and mass shootings have become a reoccurring theme, and there’s no way to escape them. These attacks and shootings are dominating the news headlines, and we’ve become a generation drowning in stories, hashtags and nightmares of terrorism. As more tragedies occur, more people have become desensitized to horrible acts of terror. More specifically, our generation has become very familiar with attacks given we’ve grown up with them. This leads me to a valid question: with the constant attacks and shootings, does our generation still care or have we become numb?

Every time another mass shooting or terrorist attack occurs, the whole world goes into shock, for a few hours of course. We watch the news, post a picture and feel the gut-wrenching feeling that it could’ve been any one of us. Then one day passes, and everything goes back to normal.

The recent Las Vegas shooting is a perfect example. I found out about the news late at night, so confused on how something so terrible can happen. I was devastated by the number of deaths, the injuries and the graphic videos shared across the various social media platforms. I even thought that a tragedy so horrible will surely open the world’s eyes for the lack of gun control, but when I went to school the next morning, it seemed like nobody was acknowledging the attack. There was a short moment of silence set aside in the school announcements in which most homeroom classes talk over. The one moment the school set aside to get students to come to terms with the attack wasn’t recognized, but rather ignored.

That day, our adaptation to the frequent attacks materialized right in front of me. I saw it in other people, and I even saw it in myself. I am devastated every time I hear about another attack, but I am never surprised.

Perhaps the feelings we hold toward terrorism today began through our past. Personally, I was forced to become familiar with terrorism and mass attacks from the moment I was born. In fact, I can’t remember a time without terrorism. The Sept. 11 attack happened a few months before I was born, followed by numerous other attacks throughout the years like the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Sandy Hook shooting. I can’t remember a time without strict airport checks filled with interrogations and accusations. I can’t remember a time when “what if” wasn’t lingering in the air before leaving the house.

The frequency of these attacks in my life has created a lot of apathy on the topic, something that I think my whole generation has as well. We’ve lived through so many tragedies that the mourning for each one has become a routine. With every attack, people have become less affected. With so much terror instilled in one lifetime, it’s easy to quickly dismiss the fear. I think we’ve realized it’s easier to set the fear aside than to come to terms with it.  It’s easier to dismiss a terrorist attack than to lie awake and think about how it could’ve been you. It’s scary to think these tragedies are not fiction, they are reality. These are real events that happen, and there’s little we can do to prevent them. At any time or place, we can become another number on the death toll of the next attack.

As more attacks occur, people are quick to ask “how many” rather than “why.” Our minds have become adjusted to go straight to the statistics. What’s the death toll? How many were injured? Was it worse than last time? Where now? In a way we have even become amused by the rising death tolls, somehow romanticizing them. We wonder how much the count will go up instead of wondering who the people were and how their families are taking it. These are not just numbers, they are real people.

Another cause for our desensitization is social media. Many people react to a tragedy by sharing the tragedy and their sympathy for it. Every time an attack occurs, every one of my social media accounts are taken over by posts about the tragedy accompanied with a hashtag, like #prayforvegas. With just a few taps on a smartphone, anyone can quickly show everyone how much they care. But as attacks have become more frequent, the posts have become formulaic, not leaving as much of an impact. Something happens, a hashtag is made and people use it as a caption, but the meaning is lost. It’s starting to feel like a post is part of the protocol for a tragedy rather than an effort to actually share opinions or make a change.  We cut and paste our mourning process for attacks with a standard hashtag, and don’t give each attack the mourning process they deserve. Every attack is a different situation with different people affected, and it’s time we acknowledge that. These attacks are not just headlines, they are events that have affected real people.

With the media steadily advancing, news reports are everywhere. We can find the news on TV, online and even on Snapchat. Since the news is so accessible, our generation always knows everything about it, all the time. This is just another reason we have become so numb to tragedies: we have witnessed so many of them. In a world of social media and constant news reports, there is no way to be guarded from the truth.

It is sad to say, but this is the world that I know. I have found myself helpless to these attacks; they have just become a way of life in our society, a norm in the media. I am all too familiar with shootings, attacks and innocent lives constantly being lost. But not everyone is so numb to acts of terror. I look to older generations, and see they are shocked after every attack. Unlike us, our parents did not grow up in a time of sporadic attacks. They did not grow up in a time where a truck running over a mass amount of people was the norm. Our parents and older generations grew up in different environments. They grew up in war zones, drafts and conflict, but they never had to become so familiar with the unknown. Our generation might not have grown up in war zones, but we have grown up in the war of terrorism, a war where we’ve found ourselves defenseless. Our parents and people from older generations are still so affected by these attacks because unlike us, this is not the world they know.

We are a generation shaped by our past and the tragic events that have defined us. But we have the power to define our future. We can’t make this our new norm, nor can we make the recurrence of these nightmares become a reason to numb ourselves. We must understand these tragedies are more than just numbers. We must understand real lives are being lost. Along with the hashtags and Instagram posts, we need conversations and reflection. Along with the questions of how many dead and tell me more about the shooter, we need people asking questions like “how can I help? Who were the victims? How do I, or we, feel?”

Yes, let’s begin to feel, again.

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