There is a 1 in 285 chance that someone will die from a gun assault. It is within the top ten causes of death in America, according to Injury Facts. America is familiar with shootings and gun violence. This leads to a country that is familiar with the mind-numbing, all-consuming, phantom feeling of loss after a tragedy has happened. However, in a social media driven world, we can boil a very complicated conversation down to a few issues. Being sensitive to the needs of others in a tragedy such as a shooting is something of which we should all be mindful.
The social media age has brought many people who feel the need to comment on everything, including tragedy. Tragedies that are talked about on social media are instances that cause the suffering of a multitude of people and have an effect on a national or global level. In addition to everyday people engaging with one another about tragedy, celebrities often send their condolences through Twitter.
Khalid stated in a twitter post, “My prayers go out to everyone affected by the Santa Fe School shooting. Something needs to change. Kids should not have to fear for their life while going to school, they should feel safe. We need control.”
There is a wrong way to do this. The responses to tragedies can often dehumanize the people involved in them. A response to a shooting can turn political or hurtful instead of focusing on the fact that lives were taken.
The need to comment on tragedy is all around us, even at Azusa Pacific University. It happened after the shooting of a minor in Azusa on Overheard at APU, a private Facebook group.
On Jan. 8, two men were shot and killed on Sixth Street. One of them was a minor, named Daniel Zeledon, who passed away at the age of 15. Later that night, somebody posted an article on the shooting to keep everyone updated on Overheard at APU.
“Not surprised. Lived in Glendora for 18 years and everyone from around here knows Azusa is no bueno. Hide ya kids, Hide ya roommates,” it stated in a comment below the post.
This is exactly the response we should not be having as a Christian community. This response points out a fatal flaw in APU’s culture: we are in a bubble. We only focus on the community that we have on campus and not on the greater community to which our campus belongs. In the process, we hurt the very community that we live alongside.
After the Overheard at APU comment, a post was seen on social media saying, “I’ve lived in Azusa my whole life. Azusa is my home. So let’s think before we label somebody’s home as bad/ghetto/dangerous or a no bueno place. APU Students—we constantly use the word ‘community.’ So let’s start putting it into practice instead of just saying it. Azusa is not just the name of your school, Azusa is a city, it is a community filled with beautiful people. The world is crazy and there is danger everywhere. I’m not saying to not take precautions, I’m just saying we should think about how our words might affect others around us.”
Do our comments devalue somebody’s tragedy? This is the question we should be asking before posting on social media. Death is not something that should be taken lightly or brushed to the side. We must all think outside of ourselves.
Darincka Vargas, a junior communications major, a native to Azusa and Azusa Senator for SGA said, “I can see Azusa and I can see a beautiful canyon, I see amazing people, I see history and I see community; students on campus see Azusa as the grim reaper of hell.”
Danger is everywhere. Even in a place that is labeled as safe. Thousand Oaks was considered the third safest city in America before the shooting that happened there, according to Insider.
About three months ago on Nov. 7 at Borderline Bar and Grill, 12 people were shot and killed. It was a regular night in a place where many college students went to have a good time. However, this night rocked the Thousand Oaks community.
Natalie Pagan, an English major and honors student and native to Thousand Oaks talks about how it was a surreal feeling for her. “You never think your hometown is going to be global news for a shooting.”
She was away from home at APU when the shooting happened and talked about how she got most of her information from the media which made it hard for her. In situations such as these, it is important to hold loved ones close. It is imperative to recognize the people involved, rather than a political agenda.
“People try to use shootings to push a political agenda but I think the fact that the shooting was in my hometown made me realize how many articles and social media posts were focusing on arguing the issue of gun control over the fact that 12 people lost their lives at Borderline that night,” Pagan said.
This does not mean that action should not be taken to combat the rise of gun violence in our country but posting about change right after a shooting can take away from the tragedy itself. A tragedy such as a shooting is as complex as the people involved in it and social media posts tend to make the issue look two dimensional. Addressing something as just an issue of living in a “no bueno” place or gun control laws is not recognizing the tragedy.
According to the University of Washington counseling center, “no two people are likely to experience grief in the same way.”
Pagan stated that many people in Thousand Oaks needed time and space. As someone on social media commenting on it, it is important to respect the community’s needs.
When comforting a person experiencing these tragedies, it is critical that we listen to what they need. The same goes for a social media post about a shooting; look beyond the generalization and see something for what it really is. See the tragedy and acknowledge it but know that towns are three-dimensional like the inhabitants in it. These towns are more than the tragedies that have happened there.
“There are good things that our town should be known for, like the leaves that change color on Lynn Road and the rabbits that are always everywhere,” Pagan says about her home in Thousand Oaks.
Emotional intelligence is an important skill that seems to be downplayed by the culture we live in. Having a high emotional intelligence can help in a myriad of ways. I encourage us all to stop and think about the people involved before posting something that might make a tragedy look like less than what it is to those who are grieving.