Is Social Media Traumatizing Us?

On a rainy morning, I was getting ready to go on a tour in Dublin, Ireland. The older guide approached us and appeared to be very upset. He asked if we were okay, and if we needed some time before our tour started. Confused, we asked what was wrong. “Did you hear? A mass shooting happened this morning in America.” He was met with a few shrugs and “Yeah, that happens.” Shocked, he replied “If that happened here, we would probably shut down the city for weeks.”

It was in that moment, I began to think about why this group of American’s reacted this way. Besides the lack of action from political leaders, I thought about social media. For years, we have been exposed to violence and tragedy (virtually) right in front of us. In the live classroom this week, it was brought up about social media and having this information right at our fingertips. We have access to more information than ever, and it is quite overwhelming. Even this morning, I woke up to several news notifications involving death and tragedy with pictures attached.

Grace Dowd, a psychotherapist, says “Since we don’t always have enough time to digest one story before another breaks, we can sometimes end up feeling emotionally numb, helpless and immobile. This typically happens when our survival mechanisms are triggered.” Grace then adds, “Our constant access to social media and the news plays into this by continuing to provide access to information to the point where it no longer becomes shocking, and also by taking our attention away with the next crisis.” (Barnes, 2021) Mary Joye, a licensed mental health counselor, says “Repetition of [bad news and images] does damage to us through vicarious trauma.” (Barnes, 2021) Vicarious trauma was also discussed in our live classroom this week. Vicarious trauma is when the trauma does not directly happen to you, but you are affected by it. 

Sites created to share memories and watch funny videos have slowly turned dark over time. On apps such as TikTok, you can watch a cooking tutorial and the next video is a house exploding. How do we protect ourselves?

Limiting time on social media has been a great tool for me. I have seen a major decrease in anxiety. It allows me to process anything I have seen and reflect. As bad as it sounds, I have had to adopt the “ignorance is bliss” stance with trends on social media. Most of these “trends” have turned into a rabbit hole of anxiety inducing videos, such as “top 10 household products that will give you cancer”. I even have friends that set time limits on their phones, or have deleted social media all together. I strongly believe that if we decrease our social media use, society will greatly benefit from it. 


Barnes, S. (2021, Feb 21). “Social Media is Traumatizing Us More Than We Realize”

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