ListenFirst’s thoughts are with the people of Uvalde, Texas and everyone who was affected by the tragic mass shooting that occurred there. It is difficult to objectively analyze data around senseless violent events, but there are some insights we would like to share around the online social data which may be key indicators of the nation’s tolerance for this type of violence.
Around these senseless mass shootings, one way people on social media process the event is by sharing familiar headlines from various online news feeds. We will take a brief look at a reoccurring trending headline post from The Onion and see if the increased engagement around the tradition speaks to an increased public desire for gun control reform.
- The Onion keeps republishing the headline “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” after mass shootings. The Onion shared posts using this headline 25 times since 2014 getting 957,041 total engagements on social media. As the article satirizes America’s unwillingness to change public policy to address a recurring problem, the more mass shootings, the more relevant the headline becomes to people. For example, The Onion’s most engaged version of that post was a May 16, 2022 Tweet that got 162,041 engagement and referred to a racist gunman killing 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store. Second most engaging was a May 25, 2022 Tweet, getting 145,458 engagements and sharing the headline in the context of the mass school shooting at Uvalde, Texas.
- In comparison, The Onion first used the “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” headline on social media in their The Onion Review — Week Of May 30, 2014 video on YouTube getting just 636 engagements.
- There can be a high correlation on social media, between school shootings occurring and gun control being discussed. For example on May 25, 2022 , the day after the Uvalde Texas school mass shooting, there were 591,058 Tweets mentioning a School Shooting and 610,625 Tweets mentioning Gun Control. On February 15, 2018, the day after the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida there were 755,796 Tweets mentioning a School Shooting and 349,461 Tweets mentioning Gun Control. On December 14, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting there were 472,732 Tweets mentioning a School Shooting and 287,628 Tweets mentioning Gun Control.
- Not even halfway through 2022, there have already been more Tweets mentioning a school shooting this year than in any year since 2018. The Twitter conversation around both School Shooting and around Gun Control peaked in 2018, around the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting most specifically.
It does not appear the increased engagement around The Onion’s “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” represents a larger audience interest in legislative reform around gun control. While there does appear to be a significant correlation between school shootings and gun control being discussed on social media, there was the most social conversation around both topics in 2018. That’s despite Uvalde, Texas being the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012.
Based on the social data at least, what happened in Uvalde, Texas is not going to be the tipping point for change, leading unfortunately to even more opportunities for The Onion to share the exact same headline in the future. If anything, the social media reaction to Uvalde indicates a new level of tolerance for violence in America.