We are disturbingly desensitized

Areebah Bharmal, Staff Writer

We are living in a time in which endless amounts of information are always at our fingertips. We are constantly bombarded with headlines, from politics and news to the latest fashion trends and movies. In the midst of  these stories and articles are horrific accounts of abuse and loss of human life, and while these stories may trigger an emotional reaction in us the first time we hear them, they are becoming disturbingly common. 

The more we hear these stories, the more we become desensitized to them, and the less they affect us. Mass shootings have become such a common occurrence that most of them no longer make headlines, and the few that do make the cut no longer cause the same distress. We may hear about it once or twice before it is quickly overshadowed by something else. This kind of desensitization to news stories is the reason nothing is ever done to change the conditions that allow these horrific events to occur in the first place. We may react with empathy to the survivors and disgust to the perpetrators for a brief moment, but the story is quickly overshadowed by justification of why we can’t proactively work to prevent these events from happening again. These stories no longer affect us the same way because of how desensitized we have become to them — and that’s not normal.

After each report of gun violence, it is only a matter of time before it happens again and we have almost come to expect the next incident. After each headline, the clock resets, and we count it as a win if the time between these incidents is longer, when the fact that this is happening at all should bother each of us. If you were to actually watch a clock throughout the month of September and reset it every time gun violence took place, that clock would be flipped back to zero multiple times per day for most of the month.

We have fallen into a similarly disturbing pattern with COVID-19 statistics. At the beginning of the pandemic, the main topic of conversation was about the virus and how many people were testing positive and dying from it every day, but this is no longer the case. Instead of actively acting to flatten the curve we are back to making excuses as to why we can’t. In March 2020, we heard the phrase “flatten the curve” constantly, but now we are returning to school and going to events as if nothing is wrong. Instead of wearing masks and getting vaccinated so we can work together to get rid of this virus, we are debating whether or not putting on masks takes away the unalienable rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness — an argument that completely disregards the indisputable fact that taking off our masks risks lives. COVID-19 headlines no longer affect anyone the way they did in early 2020, but instead of doing anything about it we are all allowing ourselves to adjust to this new normal. This lack of regard for loss of human life is not normal. 

The same week Simone Biles walked the Met Gala red carpet, she joined fellow gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols in testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI’s response, or lack of response, to allegations of abuse against doctor Larry Nassar. The statements they made and the FBI’s handling of the investigation should have shaken everyone, and the gymnasts deserved the public’s attention and pressure on their elected officials. Instead, their testimonies were hardly discussed and overshadowed by other events. The lack of attention this hearing received once again highlights how normalized these shocking events have become. Instead of these headlines drawing attention, they are swept aside entirely or scarcely discussed.

This lack of reaction to horrific, appalling headlines is almost as disgusting as the events themselves because it reflects how used to these stories we have become. The desensitization of horrifying events will only continue to accelerate; this story needs to shift before no reaction becomes our default.