Student Reactions to the Shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University: Does Sharing Grief and Support Over the Internet Affect Recovery?

Publication Date

November 2010


The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is published by Sage,


After the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, many students gravitated to the Internet for support. Despite the fact that the Internet plays a major role in how people live their lives in contemporary society, little is known about how people use the Internet in times of tragedy and whether this use affects well-being. To address these issues, the current study assessed the types of online activities more than 200 Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University students participated in 2 weeks after the shootings and again 6 weeks later, as well as their depressive and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Results showed that 2 weeks after the shootings, nearly 75% of students were suffering from significant psychological distress. Additionally, students participated in numerous online activities related to the shootings. Importantly, students perceived their Internet activities as being beneficial, although there was no evidence that Internet use affected their well-being.


Psychology | Social Psychology