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  • Dean Smith

Why Do People Post Crimes on Social Media? Psychologists Have an Answer

There has been an alarming increase of cases in which individuals commit crimes and post it on social media in the form of pictures, status updates, even live videos. Although it makes our jobs easier, we can’t help but wonder…why? Why do people continue to incriminate themselves on social media?

According to a rather gruesome article by Alfred NG of the New York Daily News, social media is being used as an outlet for criminals to show the world what they’ve done. Some recent crimes we’ve seen in the news (and on social media) for instance:

  1. Teenage beatings (i.e. “The Knockout Game”) and posting on social media

  2. Streaming drunk driving on Periscope

  3. NYU student setting his roommate on fire and posting it to Snapchat

  4. Florida man amassed 142 felony charges stemming from photos of illegal activity on his Instagram account

  5. Animal cruelty, such as the man who was charged for killing his neighbor’s dogs for walking in his yard and posting a photo of their lifeless, bloody bodies on Facebook

  6. Massachusetts man and woman were convicted of sexual assault on a teen girl filmed on Snapchat

  7. Florida man murdered his wife and posted a picture of her corpse on Facebook.

You read that right. Murders have been posted at least twice on Facebook, one in Florida (listed above) and the other in Texas, and in Britain on Snapchat. Criminals are even going as far as posting their VIOLENT crimes.

Lucky for us, we investigate insurance fraud and we’ve had our fair share of fraudsters incriminating themselves on social media. It’s inevitable. People just can’t keep their private lives to themselves. But why?

Psychologists have an answer. And we can agree that we see a striking common theme, whether the crime is insurance fraud or murder, these criminals have “an insatiable craving for attention.”

N.G. Berrill, an executive director of the New York Center for Neuropsychology and Forensic Behavioral Science, stated that “The allure of fame, and the excitement of the attention, it’s almost like it’s intoxicating. They’re willing to foolishly sacrifice their freedom in order to obtain the attention and cause a commotion.” Then comes the sense of power.

Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Research Center, talked about teenaged criminals, stating that “The need for approval is overriding any type of long-term planning. Teenagers are notoriously bad at estimating risks, they’re much more concerned about showing off to their peers.”

It must also be noted that criminals are stepping away from Facebook and moving to Snapchat, a wildly popular smartphone app that claims to erase the images and videos from their servers after viewing. But as investigators, we KNOW that it is never REALLY deleted. The company is still able to pull the metadata from the suspect’s account after the post has been “erased”.

Seems as though the attention-seeking, narcissistic criminals of this day and age aren’t planning on slowing down any time soon.

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