Column: Social media reaction to Vegas attack a tragedy itself

APTOPIX Las Vegas Shooting

I can’t bring myself to look at Twitter on days like today.

It’s not just the grisly images coming out of Las Vegas that turn me off of social media — too many shootings and other tragedies in recent years have sadly reduced the rarity of gruesome iPhone footage and death toll updates from local news stations.

No, instead it’s the tradition of volatility across all social media platforms that has me plugging my ears and staring at cracks on the sidewalk from class to class the day after Sunday’s terror attack in Las Vegas.

I appreciate how passionately people want things to change, and to once and for all retire the headline “Worst mass shooting in the history of the U.S.” But to be frank, hurling Twitter insults across political divides will not accomplish one damn thing — it never has.

It’s the same thing every time. First come the thoughts and prayers. Proud, angry 140-character messages follow, insisting God is dead and what we really need is gun control. Of course gun control never goes anywhere on the internet without its echo, “Now is not the time to discuss that,” in tow. And then “If we don’t discuss it these attacks will keep happening,” and then, and then, and then. The argument does nothing to aid broken hearts or provide future safety, it only further entrenches those who ought to be unified into their separate corners.

Perhaps most painfully, all of these messages generally come from a well-meaning place. Of course there are those with political agendas aiming to capitalize on this human suffering, we know that. But maybe let’s give the benefit of a doubt to friends and family and coworkers coping with a traumatic event the best they can. Maybe let’s try to reach some level of understanding that we’re all working for a common goal of peace. Is searching for a solution to future terror attacks via gun control or offering strangers our sincerest thoughts and prayers really so terrible? Terrible enough that within 24 hours of an attack, we’re all sitting stuffily across the aisle from each other with our arms folded, steaming at the “other side’s” alleged heartlessness?

As a culture we’ve forgotten how to let something breathe. At the first news of Sunday’s tragedy — before the shooter was even caught, mind you — the gun control and anti-gun control factions dug in. Concert-goers were still being rushed to hospitals, families were still frantically locating loved ones, and we collectively skipped over the part where we mourn with those who mourn, leaping into the disgusting work of trying to legislate away human indecency.

What’s more, we’re all getting really good at it. The process speeds up with each attack, to the point where only the most divisive messages rise to the top of timelines and Twitter feeds. No political opinion is going to change because of a childish internet battle of wits. Things change when we understand one another. I recognize how cliche and ‘kumbaya’ that sounds, but perhaps some cliches exist for a reason. Stop responding to attacks on humanity by further dehumanizing those you disagree with, and start finding some common ground. Being excellent to each other will change the world far more than any political grudge match ever could.


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