It seems like the U.S. can hardly make it through a week without news of another mass shooting. Such tragedies have increased alarmingly in recent years, raising the question of what has led to the uptick in the uniquely American problem.
Two researchers from Western New Mexico University are examining what role the media may play in the rise in gun massacres since 2000. At that time, there were an average of two to three mass shootings. By 2015, the number spiked to 20 incidents.
Researchers Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy presented a paper this week at the American Psychological Association in which they examined past studies on gun violence in attempt to understand why mass shootings are on the rise when criminal activity in general has decreased across the country.
They found that the more prevalent discussion about a shooting incident is on Twitter, the higher the chance another will take place shortly after. After a school shooting, when at least 10 out of every million tweets mentions the massacre, it is 50 percent more likely there will be another incident within eight days. The chances raise to 100 percent within 35 days, the researchers found.
Johnston said this shows that mass violence is “contagious,” spreading more easily in the 24-hour news cycle and social media environment.
“Now we have some pretty solid evidence that it is," Johnston told ABC News. "There is a clear pattern that is not due to chance.”
Johnston said she and Joy found that the notoriety given to mass killers by constant coverage of an incident also plays into an increase in shootings. Perpetrators generally "desired fame and wished to emulate a previous mass shooter."
Some journalists and media outlets have decided to stop naming suspects by name or showing their photo. CNN’s Anderson Cooper doesn’t name mass shooters on his show, and refused to broadcast the face of the killer in the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 49 people in June. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly also typically refrains from mentioning a suspect by name.