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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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