The Cycle of Sympathy After Las Vegas

The United States, with its infatuation and demand for the use of guns, has become quite familiar with mass shootings tragedies that increasingly surmount each other’s numbers of death and destruction. As a 20-year-old, I have lived through the news of so many mass shootings that it has become commonplace to look at my computer and see that another person has taken a gun against other people. “Thoughts and prayers” have become a staple for what we see when we scroll through Facebook for the victims of gun violence that seem to be ever increasing as stricter gun control fails to take hold.

With the onslaught of recent tragedies such as the recent Las Vegas shooting, which left 59 killed and over 500 injured, there is a never-ending parade of media coverage that thrusts calamity into the spotlight. Immediately after the event unfolded, every news station and social media page was flooded with the news that yet another mass shooting had occurred. My same Facebook friends that made elaborate statuses about the importance of gun laws during the Pulse shooting in Orlando last June made more passionate posts, almost exactly the same as before. They were shocked and grieving. But to me, their intense emotions hardly seemed to stand out anymore.

At a time when the United States has been hit by multiple devastating hurricanes, the coverage of tragedy has been relentless. The endless voicing of concern for others on social media has been well-intentioned; however, when it comes to our most recent and deadliest shooting, it has only highlighted to me how disturbingly commonplace these types of tragedies have become. Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and tweets from friends and celebrities announcing grievances have almost outnumbered usual activity of everyday life that they usually post.

All these thoughts and prayers announced on Facebook are lost in a void of mutual and repetitive concern that is so common that it no longer resonates with me. Social media is great at raising awareness, and in certain cases, money and help can result from these statuses. But in many ways these statuses are only validating the person who is posting them. Putting your prayers publicly out there in the world is an acceptable way to acknowledge an objectively terrible situation. It is seen as a duty that people, especially well-known people and organizations, voice their empathy.

But it is tragic how voicing concern and empathy over Facebook has evolved into a regular duty for not just well-known figures, but everyday people. In this way, our social media can shine a light on harsh reality of the world we live in. Beyond natural disasters plaguing our Earth are man-made tragedies like the shooting in Las Vegas that shock us once again into posting on social media. It is amazing how our media not only amplifies sympathy for these situations, but amplifies how the repetition and deadliness of situations in America seem to only be increasing due to a lack of progress on gun control.

On the same day as the Las Vegas shooting there was a shooting in Lawrence, Kansas that killed three people. Not soon before that, on Sept. 10, there was a shooting in Plano, Texas that killed nine. So far in 2017, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 273 mass shooting in the United States in which at least four people have been shot. The frequency of these events is harrowing. While previously, the largest mass shooting in United States history was at Pulse Night Club last June which killed 49 people, now the record has risen to 59 with Las Vegas. The country appropriately outpoured grief for Pulse when it happened, and then was forced to move on to larger things to grieve for.

When the country moves from tragic event to tragic event, what are we learning? It seems to me that instead of learning how to prevent these types of disasters from occurring in the first place, we are learning how to deal with these events as they become more deadly. We are learning a routine of when a tragedy such as a shooting happens: post a Facebook status, announce your prayers, and move on to the next event that needs your attention. Perform your duty as a citizen to recognize a terrible event.

We may grieve, we may sympathize, and these are all good things. But I for one yearn for a day when the prayers for a victim of a gun shooting garner the fullest attention they deserve, instead of blending into the noise of a thousand victims that seem to diminish in importance as the next expected tragedy occurs. The lives lost in the Las Vegas shooting should not just be more names in the archive of a long list of prayers on your timeline. They should be a bloodstain in history that dares never to repeat itself.

Claire Harvey is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at