Tragedy struck the communities of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, this weekend. A total of 31 lives were lost in separate mass shootings, with more injured. As the friends and families of these victims mourn the loss of their loved ones, it can be difficult to know how to best show our support. Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, asked us on Monday to “Please pray for the families in Ohio and Texas whose lives have been turned upside down by this tragedy. Please pray for the first responders and grief counselors in those areas who are overwhelmed both physically and emotionally.”
Another way to help those affected is through donations. CNN’s Impact Your World and Public Good have partnered up to help raise money for the Dayton Foundation, the El Paso Community Foundation, and the Paso Del Norte Foundation—all three of which are working to help the communities of Dayton and El Paso recover from the shootings. You can learn more and donate here.
With so much hate and violence being perpetrated against innocent victims, many Americans are wondering just how to put a stop to such disasters. There have been many debates about the cause of these crimes. And while we may never have a perfect, definitive answer , we’ve seen no lack of suggestions.
Some politicians are blaming violent video games, in part, for these repeated acts of violence. And while plenty of media outlets stress there’s no direct link between video games and these horrific acts of violence, the research is more complex than that. While undisputed correlations between mass shootings and games may be elusive, the link between aggression and games is not. Indeed, the American Psychological Association released a statement in 2015 said that the “link between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior is one of the most studied and best established.” And Samantha Nerove, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, suggested that violent games are troubling no matter what. For Fox News, she wrote, “Is this glorification of death and destruction really what we want to expose our children to in their formative years?”
In the meantime, social media platforms are also responding. According to Vox, Facebook banned “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” in March. YouTube banned content from “neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and Sandy Hook trolls” in June. And Twitter committed itself to dealing with terrorist content in May. But perhaps the biggest, most recent change was seen in relation to 8chan, a message board dedicated to extreme free speech and anonymity. The El Paso shooter allegedly posted his manifesto to the site shortly before the attack. This is the third time the site has been connected with a mass shooting. In an interview with The New York Times, Fredrick Brennan (the creator of 8chan) said,
Shut the site down. It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.
Brennan stopped working with 8chan’s current owner last year, but no changes were made to the website until Sunday night when the security company Cloudflare, which previously hosted 8chan shut the site down for being “a cesspool of hate,” according to ABC News. 8chan attempted to keep itself going by finding a new online host, but when Voxility (the new provider) found out, they also shut the site down with the promise to prevent the chat site from returning. Brennan said in an interview with Wired, “I just hope that they give up and throw in the towel… The only people that are really going to suffer are mass shooters that wanted to post.”
It’s hoped that the end of 8chan and the new policies being enforced by other social media platforms will help to curb the constant influx of hatred we see on our timelines. But perhaps it’s also worth considering taking a break from social media entirely. At least that’s what Republican Senator Josh Hawley is proposing. His latest bill aims to limit social media use to 30 minutes a day. Users would be allowed to change their time limits or remove them completely in the settings, but those settings would automatically reset every 30 days. “In other words,” according to Vox, “you would have to tell Twitter every 30 days that you want to spend more than a half hour on its service every day.”
Hawley’s bill comes in light of studies linking social media use to poor mental states and loneliness. A new study from YouGov revealed that Millennials are the loneliest generation, with 30% saying they always or often feel lonely. That same study also showed that 30% have no best friends, 27% have no close friends, and 22% have no friends at all. While this particular study didn’t investigate the reasons why Millennials are reporting friendlessness, psychologist Melissa G. Hunt (who conducted the study) said the bottom line is this: “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.”
If nothing else, getting off your electronic devices will allow more time for face-to-face interaction. And perhaps you can use those opportunities to participate in the #ElPasoChallenge. CNN reports that sixth-grader Ruben Martinez wants to help his Texas community begin to heal from the shooting this weekend by challenging each person in El Paso to do 22 good deeds for others—one for each of the victims lost. Martinez’s suggestions include mowing someone’s lawn, visiting a nursing home, paying for someone’s lunch, donating to families in need, writing a letter to someone to let them know how great they are, holding the door for everyone, taking flowers to someone in the hospital, or leaving a dollar on the vending machine for the next person. “This will show the world that people in El Paso, Texas are kind and care for each other,” his note reads. The challenge, naturally, has gone viral.
As we remember the victims of El Paso and Dayton this week, we also remember Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison, who died at the age of 88 on Monday. According to The New York Times, Morrison’s canon demonstrated “the absolute and destructive absurdity of any position that would claim others lesser than or unequal.” As our communities heal and our country passes legislation to prevent more tragedies from occurring, hopefully we can all remember what Morrison believed:
At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens—that letting go—you let go because you can.