These days, it seems like I can’t scroll down Twitter without seeing an obscene video of someone getting beat up or dying. Whether it just be a school fight or someone being shot by the police, I am tired of seeing things like this. I don’t think seeing bodies sprawled across the ground should be a norm, especially when they are black and brown.
Besides what it can mentally do to people who look like us, this constant spread of violent media makes us indifferent toward the topic as a whole. I understand that violence is a part of everyday life, but that does not mean we should have no reaction when seeing it.
Desensitization is a process that diminishes emotional responsiveness to a negative or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. There are many differing studies on the effects of different types of media on the brain, so it would be ignorant to think that there is no effect at all.
We are only concerned with violence for a few seconds before it meshes with everything else on our feed. We become more apathetic toward violence the more we see it. Violence has become the norm so no matter how gruesome, it seems like people don’t even blink.
Daniel Linz, Edward Donner-stein and Steven Penrod conducted a study in 1984 measuring men's reactions to films portraying sexual violence against women. With each day of watching the violence, their anxiety decreased. With each day of watching, they considered the films less and less violent though it was in fact the same content. The men were presented a mock trial where a woman was a victim of sexual assault. The men who saw the films were less sympathetic toward the victim and sexual assault as a whole.
This is how this gross desensitization can affect our real lives past the screen. Violence on TV or on social media, though it may be footage of actual happenings, is not the same as being in a real life run in with violence or being in a courtroom determining what violence is. How does one determine that if they have seen it so much that it is the norm?
This repeated viewing of violence can affect victims too. People may be more passive when they are a victim in a situation and deny help because what happened to them is so normal.
The desensitization is so widespread that people’s first instinct when a violent crime is happening is not to call the police, but start recording. Recording is helpful in situations of police brutality, but not in the case of two people fighting. This problem is not one that will be fixed overnight, and the U.S. already shows violence in media a little less than the rest of the world due to regulations. So, just what do we do? We become more empathetic.
Even if our brains’ first response to seeing violence through various forms of media is to look and just scroll past it, we must be more aware of the victims. We must not accept it as the norm, and we must be more vigilant.
Olivia James is a 19-year-old mass communication freshman from Baton Rouge Louisiana.