After Mass Shootings, Social Media Spreads Info Quickly, But Can ‘Desensitize’ And ‘Misinform’

Communications professor Richard Pineda says it’s “a nightmare for law enforcement, how all this information comes out so quickly.”

By Jill AmentAugust 5, 2019 6:47 pm,

In the aftermath of Saturday’s mass shooting in El Paso one element is notable – how people first learned about the event, including mainstream mass media outlets and even members of the law enforcement community.

Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at University of Texas-El Paso has been working with his school over the weekend, researching social media’s impact on coverage of the shooting in El Paso.

He says one of the challenges of social media is discerning if the flow of informations is legitimate.

“We’re getting, I think, a unique perspective from the everyday citizen. But this is a nightmare for law enforcement, how all this information comes out so quickly,” he says.

Another worry that Pineda has is how the unfiltered news and images shared on social media are affecting those who view them.

“One of the lessons that I think will come out from El Paso, is how quickly the flow of information like this desensitizes people,” Pineda says. “And this is a concern that – as someone who studies communication – that I think has a much higher impact. Which is the faster we see these images, undiluted the less likely we are to read them in the same way or for them to have the same emotional impact.”

He adds that the more these shootings happen, “plus people being desensitized is a really bad combo.”

Listen to the full interview in the player above.


Written by Kristen Cabrera.