In 2014, Daniel Wolfe, a 28-year-old Marine veteran, announced he was committing suicide via his Facebook page. Instead of logging off after the announcement, Wolfe documented the progression of his suicide by uploading a series of disturbingly graphic self-portraits after he cut himself with a knife.
He also posted several status updates to which friends and family responded but to no avail. Update comments posted by Wolfe included, “When my body moves no more, give me a Viking’s funeral,” and “A warrior’s death is what I seek in the valley of all these sheep.”
Final photographs showed his left arm and leg suffering multiple cuts, and deep puncture wounds on one leg. One of his last status updates read, “I’m leaking good now.”
Confessing on Social Media
Miami native Derek Medina didn’t commit suicide on social media. Instead, the 31-year-old confessed to murdering his wife, Jennifer Alfonso, and then posting pictures on his Facebook feed of her bloody body lying contorted on his kitchen floor.
After updating his status with the statement: “I’m going to prison—or a death sentence—for killing my wife. Love you guys, miss you guys, take care Facebook people. You will see me in the news,” he visited his family, told them what he had done, and then turned himself in to Miami police.
Medina’s photos of his dead wife didn’t remain on his Facebook page, however. Many people commenting on the grisly photographs shared these images repeatedly on their own Facebook feeds for at least 6 hours, which was the amount of time it took for Facebook to remove the images.
Viewing a Murder From the Murderer’s Perspective—on Twitter
The murder of a newscaster and her cameraman caught on live television as it occurred recently shocked viewers in the United States and throughout the world, made even more disturbing when the shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan (aka Bryce Williams), began tweeting about the murder. Flanagan announced, “I filmed the shooting—see Facebook” and posted two videos on Facebook and Twitter that showed the shooting in real-time, from his perspective..
Social Implications of Trying to Die With Dignity
Brittany Maynard was a terminally ill, 29-year-old woman who decided to end her own life on her terms, and in doing so sparked a nationwide debate on physician-assisted suicide. Maynard had a malignant brain tumor with an estimated 6 months to live. She made a conscious decision to move to Oregon, a state that allows physician-assisted suicide. At a point in time when physicians estimated she had approximately 2 weeks to live, Maynard chose to die. This played out throughout social media channels, with people weighing in on the pros and cons, in support of and adamantly against. Maynard decided to start a movement and create a legacy, with an agenda for others to move forward.
Is Social Media the 21st Century’s Crime Manifesto?
Why do some people commit “social suicide” or post confessions of murders on social media sites? In the case of Maynard, it appears to be a strong young woman taking a stand, trying to make her death count for something. In other cases, criminal psychologists suggest several theories that indicate high levels of narcissism exist in people who using social media to attain a sort of notoriety before they commit suicide, murder or become incarcerated. Narcissists actually resemble full-blown sociopaths in several ways, such as their inability to achieve intimacy with others and their total lack of empathy.
Narcissists suffer from low self-esteem and a significantly diminished sense of self-worth, which compels them to impulsively seek methods to “self-construct” the sensation of being a person in a world they view as unjust, unforgivable, or unsympathetic to their demands.
Narcissistic individuals may choose to broadcast their suicide or act of murder over a social media site simply because the attention they know they will receive is so powerfully satisfying to their damaged sense of self. In posting suicides and murders on social media, they are ensuring their overwhelming anger and resentment at a world they think treated them with unjustifiable brutality is solidified, permanently and unforgettably.