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Social Media & Performance Crime
Bizarre Social Media Trends
Social media has many advantages that are well documented: You can share information on the fly, promote your business interests, find long-lost friends and family, even create a web trail when you go on vacation so that people can find you, even if you don't want to be found.
Personally, I have an aversion to social media. Not because I'm a Gen Xer or because I'm less than tech savvy. The truth is that I've been working in digital media for the last decade and I've become pretty fond of my smartphone and Apple gadgets.
I'm not a fan of social media because I feel more more isolated than connected when I'm using it. Conversely, I also find social media to be intrusive. It freaks me out, for various reasons, perhaps because I'm a private person unaccustomed to sharing my private moments publicly.
What really freaks me out, however, is the abhorrent trend in social media cyber crime, specifically what is known as performance crime. In the last two years alone, social media performance crime has reared it's ugly head on multiple occasions in mainstream media and the results are not pretty.
It is a reality that teens bullying teens on social media can lead to death. There are well documented cases online, dating back as far as 2003 of children social engaging with their peers online only to take their own lives due to issues of lack of self-worth and emotional issues. From Amanda Todd, a teenager from British Columbia, who in 2012 posted a video to YouTube, using flash cards to tell about her experiences of being blackmailed and bullied to 18-year-old Brandy Vela, a recent victim of online stalking and impersonation, these represent young lives that have been extinguished as a result of suffering at the hands of others.
Live Streaming Crimes
Even more shocking is the trend of people in such despair that they live stream their own demise and that of others. Earlier this year, four young people in Chicago allegedly tortured a teen and live-streamed the incident on Facebook Live. Then there was the vile incident recently where a Thai man eliminated himself and his infant daughter on Facebook Live which then went viral on YouTube. One of the saddest episodes this year was when a precious young 14-year old girl in foster care ended her young existence...while egged on by viewers.
Social Media Maniacs
Death by one's own hand is one thing. Taking the life of someone else and boasting about it online is another level altogether. Chillingly, in April 2017, Steve Stephens murdered a random senior citizen, 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. and then posted it on Facebook. Police launched a nationwide manhunt for Stephens who committed suicide while in pursuit. And Bryce Williams recorded a video in 2016 of himself shooting two of his former co-workers and then posted it on his Twitter account.
One could argue that these crimes, however tragic, would likely happen anyway. For centuries children have bullied and been bullied. People have suffered and despaired. Others do bad things to get attention. For whatever reason, they are dealing with their own sense of isolation and need an audience - the Internet guarantees that the world will know just how much pain they are in or are afflicting on others.
Shutting down social media sites will not stop the .00001% of people who decide to use it for harmful reasons. Yet it would be nice if social media companies could do a better job of vetting their customers and more quickly flagging obvious offenders. Otherwise, unless they want to continually run their businesses hand-in-hand with law enforcement and lawyers, they might want to consider burying the 'live' feature until they are able to do a better job of controlling their platform's content.
Who knows? It might save a few lives.