THE BLOG
08/28/2015 12:29 pm ET Updated Aug 28, 2016

Can Watching Shootings on Social Media Cause PTSD?

I was sitting at my desk, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, when I stumbled upon the Roanoke shooting video. It started playing automatically. I had no choice but to watch those two people die.

About an hour later, gunshots erupted in my office. I turned around and found two guys from finance huddled over a laptop, watching the shooting. Apparently they weren't ready for the video to play either because they didn't have time to mute it.

Their disturbance led to a second, and a third. Everyone in my office was talking about the shooting now -- watching it, listening to it, cringing.

The rest of the day, I felt off, down, confused.

I feared that I would watch the shooting again by accident -- that I would open Twitter or Facebook and the video would autoplay.

It was like the killer had the power to come back from the dead and make me watch what he had done, again and again, until a little part of me died too, and he won.

I love Quentin Tarantino movies. I'm no stranger to violence. In fact, I would say I'm fairly desensitized to it. But Mr. Orange wasn't real. Those two journalists were. And when you witness a real shooting, you have a real emotional response to it.

I couldn't help but wonder, are the shootings that we see on social media scarring enough to cause something similar to Post traumatic stress disorder? Recent research would suggest so. Studies show that witnessing excessive violence via social media can lead to symptoms such as flashbacks, mood changes and sleeping problems.

Now I'm not worried that you or I will suffer from PTSD after viewing the Roanoke shooting. But I am worried about the state of a world in which killings go viral.

To be honest, I don't want to talk about this anymore. It was a horrible thing that happened the other day. I like to let go, and move on, from events like these ASAP.

But the problem is, letting go isn't up to me anymore. It isn't up to us. When I log onto Facebook later this evening, the video will find me. It will find you too, and it will autoplay before you or I know where the gunshots are coming from.

Call me naïve, but sometimes, I want to believe that there's peace in this world. It seems, however, that I'll have to abandon social media altogether to maintain that fallacy.

Another option is turning off autoplay. Here's how to do it for Facebook and Twitter.