Something that never fails to get play in the media these days are claims that violence, nudity and gore in movies and video games are desensitizing my generation. For example, earlier this year the National Rifle Association made headlines when they attempted to pin some mass shooting in the United States to the desensitizing effect of movies and games. Academics have picked up on these notions, and simple searches on academic websites bring forth studies that both confirm and reject the idea that simulated violence begets actual violence. I am not here to advocate for either side of this theory. Instead, I have a new theory to put forward; if my generation actually is being desensitized to an “abnormal” level, it has more to do with our interconnectedness than anything else. The reason? Unlike all generations before us we are truly aware of how horrific the world is, and we learn this at ever younger ages.

 

Take myself as an example; I am a heavy user of social media, I constantly have an internet connected device on my person, and I am a wholehearted news junkie. As a result I follow many news organizations on Twitter. One of those is America’s Associated Press. And if you look at the Tweets from the Associated Press just from the last six hours you will find out that a suicide bomb has killed at least nine school children and a policeman in Afghanistan, a fire at a poultry farm in China has killed 43 people, and 12 bodies (suspected to be immigrants from Myanmar) have been found off the coast of Thailand. But this is just from one news outlet, and, lets be honest, despite all these tragedies this is a light day. In the last six hours there have not been any massive natural disasters, or a disaster on the scale (measured in human lives) of the recent building collapse in Bangladesh. The Associated Press is also a responsible news agency, so there aren’t gruesome pictures of all these calamities sprayed across my Twitter feed.

 

 

But now let’s think of the worst case scenario. If you are a member of my generation living in an OECD country, chances are you are also a heavy social media user, and also constantly have an internet connected device on your person. Now, think of that picture of the man with bloody hands who allegedly butchered that soldier in Woolwich. That picture was on social media long before it was on newspapers. That picture and that video was doing the rounds almost as quickly as the British News channels could get it on their air. On that day, even if you are not a news junkie, and even if you are not a follower of news organizations and other news junkies, chances are you were exposed to that picture or at least the horrific details of that killing. Maybe in real time. You might have seen it on Facebook, you might have gotten an email about it. You might have seen it inadvertently while you were trying to google pictures of cats. But the chances are you saw it. And this is repeated all day, every day. When a tornado swept through Oklahoma a few weeks ago, I found out about it within minutes. I was in a German class, and all of a sudden our class stopped our lesson and started talking about the reports that there were children trapped in a school in the path of the tornado. When bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, again I found out about it within minutes through blast emails and Twitter. How can violent video games and movies compare to this horrible reality?

 

 

The simple fact is my generation is exposed to this 24/7 and from a very young age. We can’t ignore it. Even if we don’t directly subscribe to news outlets, whenever something massive happens everyone starts retweeting it/sharing it, and talking about it. How can this not be serving to desensitize my generation? Imagine what would have happened if a 23 year old in the nineteen-sixties had seen pictures of someone with bloody hands brandishing a knife, or heard reports of a suicide bomber killing nine school children. What would their reaction have been? Now compare that to my reaction; I just sat here watching the feed for what horrible thing is going to happen next.