On January 13, 2021, Lisa Montgomery became the first woman to be executed in the United States since 1953. Among the many macabre and abusive things Lisa was subjected and exposed to in her childhood, perhaps none was more horrible than when her mother, in full view of Lisa, crushed the head of a dog with a shovel. This one incident lodged somewhere deep in the psyche of Lisa would also become a factor, howsoever small, of what she would do years later.
Many people don’t seem to understand how the exposure to violent and graphic content affects us. When little Ada was mauled to death by a leopard recently, the pictures of her mutilated body were carelessly and disrespectfully circulated all over the social media. Some people didn’t even realize what impact it might have on others, particularly on her parents.
Each one of us must know that constant exposure to graphic content degrades our emotional response. If it continues over a period of time, desensitization sets in to the point of extinction where we might become bereft of empathy, kindness and mercy. A desensitized person gets so used to the gory sights that they fail to evoke a sense of shock and exhibit appropriate behavioral response. This has been researched and repeatedly attested by psychologists in many studies. For example, one such study was published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2002. It was found that playing and viewing violent video games has a causal correlation with the increase in aggressive behaviour. In other words, the former leads to the latter.
“…the scientific literature leaves little doubt about the effects of media violence on aggressive behavior. A cumulative meta-analysis of media violence studies revealed that by 1975 the scientific evidence was sufficient to claim that media violence exposure was positively linked to significant violent behaviors and that even short-term exposure was sufficient to cause increases in aggressive behaviors.”--- Anderson and Bushman (2002)
This is true not only of violent video games, but also of images depicting bloody or any other gruesome content. It’ll only take a moment’s reflection to realize how we feel when we get an unexpected graphic image or video through Whatsapp. Many a time such content is circulated that it sends shivers down our spine and we immediately realize we should not have seen it. We must understand that the negative impact of such things always seeps into our psyche insidiously.
The case of Lisa Montgomery, which I referred to in the beginning, might not have a direct bearing here, but it’s a constant reminder of how much impressionable we humans are; and how we are capable of turning into beasts, with every altruistic virtue of ours lost. On December 16, 2004, Lisa strangulated a 23-year old woman who was eight months pregnant. She didn’t stop there, but went on to do an unimaginably worst and aggravated act. She ripped the baby out of her womb and ran away with it. How could anyone possibly do that? She did. Among varied and numerous, known and unknown reasons that had made her into this, at least we can identify the abyss of emotional inertness that must have developed in her through constant desensitization and degradation of emotional responses to which this horrible act is an appalling testament.
Every human being is a composite creature, carrying an emotional and a rational side. Each needs the other and each plays an important role in sustaining humanity in us. And we must always remember that we tend to react, reason and respond to the things outside the way they are presented to us. Something pleasant will not have the same effect on us as something gruesome. The virtues that define us must not get degraded. They are to be guarded against any such thing that has corrosive effect upon them. So we must be careful when we come across such content on social media and should in no way attempt to engage with it. If such things appear on your social media platforms, waste no time and keep scrolling.
Ubaidullah Pandit has studied Law and Information Technology. He’s currently doing an MBA.
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