Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Why do people tweet from mass shootings?

On November 1, 2013, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia opened fire in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles International Airport.

His rampage with a semi-automatic left a U.S. government Transportation Security Administration officer dead, in addition to injuring other individuals. TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39-years-old, was pronounced dead after arriving at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

While celebrities and ordinary travelers posted updates and news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it appeared that some updates were less about informing the public to what had occurred, and more about an opportunity to post a pensive selfie amidst the chaos. While there has been ongoing debates since the beginning of social media on what’s appropriate to post to your account, should there be a conversation on how one should utilize social media during terrible occurrences?

Actor and director James Franco posted a bizarre photo of himself on Instagram looking out a plane window in with what appears to be tear in his eyes. “At #lax Some s**itbag shot up the place.” By the second week of November, the image had over 27,000 likes and 781 comments, some reading “handsome,” “I LOVE UUUU I’ll want to kiss you,” and “selfie forever please.”

It was pretty clear that there was a shooting and someone was dead, right?

Mark Salling, a 31-year-old actor best known for his role of Puck on Gleetweeted“Otw to lax and I hear there was a shooting at the terminal I’m going to. No Dallas for me this weekend, hope everyone is ok. I hate u LAX”

People post on social media anytime they’re connected to a news story. As the role of social media continues to evolve in our lives, the extent of which the lines blur between news and self-promotion starts to become more apparent. Maybe humans are conditioned to connect themselves to major events – no matter how beautiful or devastating.

Last December, when 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts opened fired at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon, many on location took to their Twitter accounts to share their story. Images, with people huddled in stores and hiding throughout the mall, were sent from accounts and reshared hundreds of times.

Some were direct and to the point, such as “Shots are being fired at the mall where I work at,” while others were a little more detailed and included hashtags, “In the mall hiding in the back room. There was a shooting at Clackamas. Through the window literally 15 feet in front of us. #terrified.”

No matter the content posted, it’s safe to say that social media has successfully integrated itself into all aspects of our existence.



Jeffrey Hartinger is a writer who lives in New York City. You can visit his website at

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