OpEd: Are We Becoming Too Desensitized To Violence?


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Human fist hitting a wall showing violence.

Hundreds of thousands of murders, assaults, theft, and other crimes are being committed every day. However, society often says “oh that’s horrible” and moves on with the day, simply happy that they weren’t victims. Even when people hear news about genocide and large mass crimes they just move on. Why are we doing this? Does it have something to do with hearing news about violence and crimes so often? Or is it just human nature to not worry about things when it does not happen to us?

To some, violence is a normal thing they deal with every day and they would actually be more shocked when a week goes by without any violence rather than a crime being committed every minute. According to the FBI Crime Check, a violent crime is committed every 24.6 seconds, most crimes being assault. For people living in those violent cities, they are just used to it when crimes are so frequent.

“People that see violence and live in these violent cities, it doesn’t mean they are not outraged by the violence,” remarked David Bonday, the resource officer at Silver Creek High School. “These people are used to seeing this violence, so they don’t get in the same uproar and get upset as other people do, because they see it all the time so it becomes normal to them. And if they go through days or weeks without violence, that is what is shocking or different to them.”

It is understandable that people who live in violent communities would become desensitized and it is hard to prevent that. However, people can also become desensitized to violence by violent media, which can be prevented.

There is a lot of media in the world today that revolves around violence from games to books, as those are the things that sell. Since violent games, movies, books, etc. are fun to watch and play, people forget that they are killing someone, even if it is fake.

“How many versions of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are there? How many versions of ‘Call Of Duty’ are there? How many versions of some of these zombie-killing games are out there? Because they are very popular and people finish them so they need the next challenge and they keep going,” says Bonday.

The gamification of violence causes users to become detached to violence and not realize that they are being violent. When gamers play a game, they do not necessarily think that they are killing and fighting, but that they are getting in-game points that can get them characters, weapons, and other items.

“[Fighting and killing] gives you experience points so you can buy better weapons,” said Rohan Dawadi, a fifth-grade student who plays video games. “[The new weapons allow me] to fight more and have more fun.”

The “fun” people have while playing violent games may stem from the fact that while in the game, players are free to do whatever they like without fear of any consequences.

“[In the games] you get points for killing game characters, and that is not how it works in the real world,” said Bonday. “But that’s where the desensitization comes from and changes your thought process, that it’s not a bad thing [to be violent]… because in the game I get points.”

However, playing violent games is not always bad. Games, and other violent media, were not made to make people desensitized, but to provide them with entertainment. People who consume such media need to understand that it is fictional and not reality.

“I know fighting is very bad… I would never do this in real life,” remarked Dawadi.

As time passes, people have more exposure to violence, from learning it to seeing it. Learning about violence is important so that we can become educated about it; however, it can also make us desensitized.

“Unfortunately violence is everywhere today,” David Speckl, a social studies teacher at Silver Creek High School said. “We see it on the news, we learn about it in school, we see it in our movies, in our video games, in our songs, and unfortunately many many people in our society, they even witness it firsthand, in their own homes, on their streets, etc… that is where the desensitization is coming, it’s just the constant bombardment of repeated exposure.”

Although violence has been around for ages, the exposure to violence has grown immensely because of the ability to share things with each other from across the world through the internet. Approximately 56% of TV shows contain some form of violence and the typical preschooler that watches two hours of cartoons will be exposed to 10,000 violent incidents every year on their screens, according to Washington.edu.

“Certainly history has been full of violence I’m going to say… my own personal experiences, while violence has always been a part of culture… I don’t think as a child I was exposed as much,” Speckl said. “I think children grow up way faster today and had much more exposure to violence… in today’s world, adolescents in particular, just have access to violence.”

Violence has always been a part of nature and there is just nothing to do about it, there will always be someone mad at someone else and they can be violent. However, that does not mean that it is justified to ignore and think that violence is normal, that is something that, as a society, should not happen.