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Do We Live in a Desensitized World?

Living in a world where challenging if not frightening global issues arise, such as wars, COVID-19, poverty, and terrorism, millennials are daily exposed to large amounts of information about such events, leading to desensitization. With our lives running faster than ever, and living in the world’s largest cities, it is easy to lose track of time and ignore our surroundings. Desensitization is an unsettling phenomenon which stems from individuals refusing or being unable to react to or express emotion towards a certain situation.

How many times have you received an Amber or emergency alert and immediately pressed clear? Through the click of a button on our device, we distance ourselves from the serious happenings of society. Unconsciously, our age group reacts to such news in an insensitive manner, simply because the repetition can be overwhelming. When things occur again and again, we become too-familiar with the situation, thus not treating it as important.

In psychology, desensitization can be illustrated by a practice called by experts ‘in vivo desensitization’. This is an ‘exposure therapy’ where frequent contact by an individual with an object or surrounding that is disturbing first becomes habitual, and after intimate contact in becomes less troubling, i.e. it evokes much less of a reaction. One example involves people who detest dirt. In the experiment, the person is given dirt in their hands in order for them to feel it. Later, water is added so that it becomes muddy, creating another texture, and unpleasant one, and lastly the person is put near a garbage can. At the end of this process, the individual manages to overcome the fear of dirt as they have now experienced it in all forms, therefore becoming desensitized.

This pattern is also reflected in people’s behavior towards current topics like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has lead to protests around the world. Photo by Noah Eleazar via Unsplash

When Russia attacked Ukraine, news organizations around the globe flooded us with coverage, making it the top headline worldwide. Initially, people were shocked, appalled, devastated by the start of a war. Today, even though coverage isn’t as extensive, it remains a hot topic of discussion in newsrooms. However, people’s approach has changed due to the frequency of exposure, eliminating the shock factor.

At the same time, we live in a country where even with a bare amount of effort, access to information is unlimited concerning a million issues. Whether that information is authentic or untrue, specific or vague, it is easily accessible for the majority of us. Daily, we are infused with numbers, statistics, and estimates.

While it is vital to be aware of current events and their impacts, like the war in Ukraine, it is purposeless if we aren’t able to understand these events and empathize with the people involved.

This is the problem the younger generations are facing, and the older ones progressively – we are becoming less able to comprehend the severity of these issues because we are becoming an increasingly desensitized society, unable to put intense situations into perspective.

There’s nothing to blame it on though other than human nature, but there is a way to address the situation.

We need to start noticing the numbers that are thrown at us, even the small ones. We must take a moment to pause and digest the information, for example, you can take a minute and imagine what you would think if one of the people who got killed was someone you loved, if the person who got sick was your best friend, if the victim of a shooting was someone you personally knew.

These are extremely painful situations to willingly put yourself in, but nothing is worth sacrificing what makes you human, like your ability to empathize.



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