What Google can show us about our reaction to mass shootings.

If you watched the news Wednesday or the following morning, you heard of yet another mass shooting.

This one in San Bernardino, California.


Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images News.

It was the 1,042nd mass shooting since Sandy Hook in December 2012.

Not again, you think, as you scour the Internet for details.

You come across a report with "live updates" like this one from the LA Times. 14 people have died, 17 are injured. Police have killed two suspects, a man and a woman, and another one is in custody.

You and millions of others turn to Google, where you type in the location of this shooting. You tweet or update Facebook about your rage, your frustration that this has happened again, your despair that politicians will still do nothing to protect you or anyone else from the next mass shooting. Because there will be more. The pattern will repeat itself. We know this. We've seen this.

Then you probably forget about it for a bit. Until news about the next mass shooting breaks.

A candlelight vigil after the WDBJ shooting in Roanoke, Virginia. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

According to Google Trends, interest in a mass shooting peaks on the day of or the day after, and then almost immediately drops off the day after that.

This is what happened with the WDBJ shooting in Roanoke, where Vester Flanagan shot and killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Aug. 26, 2015 during a live report.

U.S.-specific search interest for "WDBJ shooting" peaked on Aug. 26 (represented on the chart by the number 100), but then quickly dropped off on Aug. 27.

This was the day that major outlets like the New York Times reported on one of the victim's fathers calling for gun control.

During the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where nine people were killed just a few months ago, U.S. search interest peaked the day after the shooting on Oct. 2, then rapidly faded by Oct. 3, just one day later.

And if two is a coincidence, three is a pattern — the same search behavior can be seen of the Isla Vista shooting, where Elliot Rodger killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014.

It's not just these three. It repeats when you look up the trends for the mass shootings in Marysville, Washington; Charleston, South Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee, and others.

We care about these tragedies. We care about gun control. Why do we lose interest so fast?

Maybe because we get burnt out quickly on the tragic details. Maybe a few days in, we're being bombarded by information and have less need to seek it out.

Maybe there's nothing to do but get angry for one day — a few at the most — and then move on.

Maybe after so much death and so little being done about it, we feel there's no hope of any meaningful gun control legislation passing Congress, of any laws or initiatives addressing related issues like the misogyny behind Rodgers' attack, or the anti-abortion rhetoric that motivated last week's Planned Parenthood shooting.

If there were a time to enact gun control, you'd think that the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, where 20 children and their teachers were gunned down almost three years ago, would have been it.


There were three-fifths as many "Sandy Hook" searches from Jan. 13-19, 2013, when President Barack Obama announced a four-point legislative plan to prevent gun violence. Yet by April 14-20, 2013, we had moved on, and the proposed legislation failed to pass, even in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

We want solutions, but have we somehow failed to demonstrate significant, lasting outrage over them?

Maybe we know Congress won't stand up to a powerful gun lobby on behalf of their constituents, as CNN reported after the Senate defeat.

But if we don't search, and if we don't speak out beyond a day after a mass shooting, when solutions are so obvious and have been enacted successfully in every other developed country in the world, then it's on us when nothing changes.

A mere three days after the San Bernardino shooting, the search pattern is already following the trend of the shootings that came before it.

The day after Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino, a Senate amendment expanding background checks at gun shows and for online purchases — and one that would ban people on the terrorism watch list from purchasing guns — were rejected.

By that day, search interest in the shooting dropped to almost zero.

If we want things to change, we can't let our attention waver. Writer Nicole Silverberg put together a guide on how to contact your elected officials, along with a sample email and phone scripts and tips from Everytown for Gun Safety.

Let's break this cycle. It may seem difficult now, but we have the anger, and we have the tools. Let's use them to make things change for the better.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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