Traumatic Events and Social Media

So far, there have been evocative and horrendous videos taken by attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Festival and crowd-source speculation on their ideas of “what really happened.”

There is no true answer. Only the fact that anyone could have been a victim at the event. In this case, at least 58 casualties and an increasing number of injuries, amount to more than 500 people.

With many individuals taking to social media to express their sorrow, several updates and enduring assumptions continue to ignite a search for any form of positive relief.

Hashtags on the internet have made it possible to incorporate one’s own opinions or ideas into a stream of similar thoughts, which sometimes results in recycled tweets and redundant phrases.

In his article “After the Tragedy,” Joshua Fields Millburn explains there is certainly more people can do, than saying “praying and thinking of the victims. […] We must do more than exercise our Twitter fingers: a hashtag and a photo alone will not solve the problem, and they can be dangerous because they ape the form of real action.”

Millburn encourages donating to charities and utilizing time, attention, influence and creativity. Having a group conversation at home, school and the workplace about these catastrophes can inflict significant differences in our own communities. He states, “Social media can be a good first step, as long as it’s just that—a first step. Once we’ve expressed our grief and shown our solidarity, we must then do something about it—because if we don’t, then all we’re left with are well-meaning but solipsistic status updates.”

As of October 4, the Las Vegas community and the nation have raised over 8 million dollars on a goal of 10 million from their GoFundMe page. Online banking and credit card payment methods have made donating to charities a quick and easy process.

Our psychological wellness is also impacted during times of domestic tragedies. Different coping mechanisms are taking place as we each process traumatic information differently. This includes humor, self-interest, judgment and silence. Dr. Grainne Kirwan, a psychologist from The British Psychological Society (TBPS) states:

“In situations where people are sharing terrible information we may still appreciate likes, retweets, [and] shares as it helps to reinforce and validate our beliefs and position on the situation. It tells us that others feel the same way, and so it is okay for us to feel this way.”

With nearly every news source declaring their own version on the subject, readers are collecting excess bits of information that may likely contain bias and inaccurate or sometimes made-up information. Everyday social media users and content providers post videos, images and compelling headlines meant to evoke and persuade readers to share that information.

Grief and uncertainty are possibly the most common shared emotions felt by those affected by the Las Vegas attack. This occurrence has made past, present and future visits similar to these a fear of recurrence. Concern and mental stability techniques such as dissociating from constant reminders and investing own energy into individual strengths are helpful in overcoming traumatic events.