There have been 308 mass shootings in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. One of the most recent shootings claimed the lives of 13 California residents while they were out dancing at a country bar. Before that, 11 were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue as they were worshiping. Before that, 10 at a high school in Texas. This editorial is constantly relevant, and that’s because gun violence is a near-constant issue.
Each time people die due to gun violence, we see the same cycle: People hear reports of a shooting — immediately, they jump to social media to share their feelings about the incident. Then, as the issue is resolved and the media scuffle fades, victims are left to grieve with the prayers and well-wishings of thousands of anonymous faces on the internet. While sending hope and prayers is well and good, sending help and genuine, intentional care would be so much better.
It seems that in the midst of tragedy, people are genuinely at a loss as to how to help those suffering. In our desensitization, and through a thick lens of social media, it seems only logical that we would send our thoughts through a tweet, a text or a post. However, we must think of the victims first — and more importantly, the victims’ families.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to spread good in the world. However, grieving families need much more than words of affirmation during a difficult time, and sending thoughts and prayers on social media can seem like a cop-out when you could be offering tangible help to those in need.
Reach out to those in the circle of trauma, those who were close to the family who may be suffering, too. Don’t spam them with messages, but rather simply offer real, physical help in whatever way they need. If you’re in the area, see if you can help the family by getting groceries or by bringing warm meals. If you’re across the country, see if there is a monetary fund set up for the family and donate. Send money, send meals, send anything more than just 200 characters on a screen.
Our hearts are often in the right place during a tragedy, but oftentimes it’s difficult for us to act on our feelings. Social media has connected us so closely, we often take on the emotional trauma of those we’re friends with — that has a wonderful effect in impassioning those in proximity, encouraging them to take action. Now, it’s time to start deciding how we are going to act to truly help those affected. Take the politics out of it — simply said, people are dying at an alarming rate, and we can stop it, we can help it.
Whether you agree with gun control or not, it’s still the responsibility of our country to come together in crisis. That means being human first, and red or blue second. That means reaching out and lifting up those left behind, those mourning. That means working to actively find a reasonable compromise, one that will save thousands of lives in the future. You can tweet about it, you can text about it, but at the end of the day, do you really, truly care about the lives that have been lost?
It’s far past time for this conversation. People shouldn’t have to “check in” on Facebook so their loved ones know they haven’t been killed or injured. People shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they attend music festivals or bars or high school. But when tragedy strikes, as it inevitably will, hopefully we can say that we were humans first — that we took real, physical action to try and help those suffering, and that we feel we took victims and their families in our arms and not just our fleeting thoughts.