Social Media, Mass Shootings, and What We Can Really Do to Change the World

I’m going to tell you something that doesn’t make me proud. When news broke of another mass shooting, this time at a high school in Florida, my first thought was not horror or concern — it was “here we go again.”

There have been so many mass shootings since the day in 1999 when I sat, horrified, in my dorm room and watched the coverage of Columbine. The question then was “how could this happen?” Even with the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 I can remember feeling sick to my stomach. I remember being upset. I remember crying and asking “why?”

I am now so desensitized to mass shootings that I am briefly moved and then go on about my day. This is not only because of the sheer number of shootings taking place — which is ridiculous — but the “discussion” on social media that gets us nowhere and fills my news feed for weeks on end.

Don’t get me wrong; if this “discussion” was charitable and meaningful I wouldn’t see it in such a negative light. The truth is, I have an incredibly reasonable view of gun control that most would likely appreciate, but my Facebook wall isn’t the place to discuss it. Why, you ask? Because people are jerks on the internet.

Completely reasonable people — our very own friends and family — suddenly become akin to your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving. They have strong opinions and no filter. They hide behind their keyboards and say things that no reasonable person would shout from his rooftop. That is, by the way, what you’re doing when you post to Facebook: you are shouting from your metaphorical rooftop.

Friends, we need to stop shouting from our rooftops because no one is listening. We are wasting our time and making enemies unnecessarily. Please, step away from your keyboard.

If you truly care about making a difference, if you really want to stop mass shootings, there are plenty of ways you can do that. Not one of them involves posting memes on Facebook.

1. Write your Congressman.

Friday afternoon — two days after the latest shooting — I finally looked up the names of my Congressmen. We’ve been in Chattanooga for two years and, despite being incredibly politically active in my hometown, it’s just not been on the top of the priority list since we moved. It is now. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and Senator Bob Corker have received strongly-worded letters from me. I expressed my opinion to them directly and expect a much better response than the mud-slingling I would see on Facebook.

2. Find out how to protect yourself.

Because we homeschool, school shootings are not an imminent threat for our family. Church shootings, on the other hand, are on the radar. My husband and I have discussed where we sit in church in regards to where we would be safest in the event of a shooting. Large events require careful planning. Even eating in restaurants, going to the gym, or stopping at the pharmacy leaves me eyeing the entrance and exits and mentally calculating how to keep my people safe. If you’re not sure how to make yourself ready for the worst, talk to a police officer or member of the armed forces. Share these tips with your children as soon as they are old enough to handle it.

3. Join a community group.

The reason that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were able to remain the best of friends despite drastically differing political views, is that they spent time together. They wrote to each other. They respected each other enough to know that each were reasonable and wouldn’t hold a viewpoint without having carefully considered it. This is much easier to do when you look someone in their eyeballs, know a thing or two about them and/or their family, and don’t automatically assume he or she is a moron. I am able to befriend people with wildly different viewpoints than my own because I know them to be intelligent people (for the most part) or at least well-meaning. I see their humanity, and I hope they see mine. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean you’re stupid, but this is much easier to remember over a cup of coffee than when reading your Facebook wall. Chattanooga has many organizations that are active in our community, such as Chattanooga Moms for Social Justice, the YMCA, local churches, and even your school’s PTA. Join a group. Make friends. Make a difference.

Social Media, Mass Shootings, and What We Can Really Do to Change the World

4. Finally, Mother Teresa was once asked what we can do to promote world peace.

Her answer? “Go home and love your family.” The one thing we, as moms, can do every single day to ensure that our children have a better life now and in the future, is to love them. Teach them right from wrong. Show them to be kind, to watch out for those who may need help, and to talk to someone when the problem is too great for them to handle.

We have the power to make our world remarkably better every day, and it has nothing to do with what we share on social media. It may seem that our audience is huge and the impact would be great, but your greatest influence is on those little people you are raising up to lead.

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