Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Criminal Activity & Social Media: Why Did You Just Like That Photo?

In 2013, it’s no surprise that technology and social media is engrained into the lives of most Americans – particularly the millennial generation. As one scrolls through their Facebook newsfeed in the morning, or checks their tweets in between work meetings or class, they are put through an emotional rollercoaster of seemingly simple and mundane posts to the completely outrageous; where “friends” are casually admitting to abuse, property destruction, stealing and drunk driving.

In some cases, even murder.

This was recently seen when Derek Medina, a South Florida resident, posted a status update saying that he killed his wife. Shortly after, he posted an image of what was assumed to be the dead body of Jennifer Alfonso. She was covered in blood and sprawled out on the floor of their home.

“Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news,” he wrote.

Oddly enough, a Facebook friend of Jennifer Alfonso actually tagged the picture of her dead body, allowing more people to see the image. Sure, we have all been tagged in an unflattering photo and, of course, wondered why a friend or family member put it up in the first place, but this type of bizarre behavior definitely speaks to our growing obsession and addiction to social media.

Medina is claiming he was driven to insanity by his wife, but when one looks deeper, it appears that maybe he just looking for some more attention online. He was no stranger to “fame” – at least in his mind.

Derek Medina

“Put on USA, I’m coming out on the episode right now. I’m on USA. I’m going to come out soon. This is the episode that I filmed. That’s me right there! You saw me?” He said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

However, this was not the big break of the accused (and self-admitted) murderer; he was a part-time extra on Burn Notice, a show on USA Network. In all, he appeared in a handful of scenes for a short period of time.

While some don’t necessarily go to the extreme lengths of the criminals, some do turn to social media to confess their love and admiration for such individuals, creating Tumblr and Twitter accounts for those accused of murder, rape and terrorism. This is known as hybristophilia, where women and men are sexually attracted to those who have committed a violent and brutal crime.

The Internet is not directly responsible for the behavior of these women and men, but the overwhelming presence of the digital world is taking a toll on humans – and our mental wellbeing is being harmed in the process. With a mix of such circumstances making a reoccurring appearance on social media channels, it’s making it easier for social media users to keep on moving. Or, keep on scrolling, per se. It’s not uncommon to see a photo of a dead person – whether from a news Facebook fan page or a re-share from a friend – in your feed during any day of the week.

As these disturbing actions are hard to comprehend, it’s also quite shocking how individuals respond to these situations, as social media users are doing everything from reposting these gruesome images, as seen in the Medina case, to making disrespectful and callous comments about those impacted by these heinous crimes. Since the inception of the internet, it’s very easy for people to hide behind their computer screens and comments, even on mainstream social media.

It’s been proven that Facebook (and other social media channels as a whole) are making us lonely, but are also making us jaded to devastating news that is posted online, such as seeing that one of our Facebook friends (and, in some cases, friend in real life) was killed via a status update? Are our brains now programmed, as an instant reaction due to social media conditioning, to pass along and repost without even thinking?

While the presence of criminal activity seems to be growing on social media, so are the idiotic ways in which amateur criminals are responding to postings about crimes and tips on Facebook pages throughout the country.

It’s been reported that law enforcement uses social media in order to capitalize on endless amounts of images, using advanced social recognition programs to track people throughout the country. Yet, it appears that the public isn’t quite in the loop, or they are too naïve of their actions on social media.

Earlier this year, an 18-year-old from Anaheim, California, allegedly wrote obscenities on the side of police cruisers after a surf contest in Huntington Beach. The youth accused, Luis Enrique Rodriguez, wasn’t caught during the riot, however.

Authorities stepped in earlier this month after Rodriguez “liked” activity on the Huntington Beach Police Department’s Facebook page, which posted pictures and information regarding the crime. The photo Rodriguez liked was one of him sitting on a California police car during the chaos. A friend also tagged him in the comments and Rodriguez reportedly shared the image on his personal Facebook page.

In addition, a 17-year-old boy turned himself in after he was identified on social media.

“Our investigation shows him damaging the portable toilets and attempting to tip over a public works trucks,” read a statement on the Huntington Beach Police Department’s Facebook page. “He was arrested and released to his parents for charges of felony vandalism, inciting a riot and refusing to disperse when ordered.”

As more content is pushed out on social media channels, and with social media “celebrities” popping up everyday, it appears that a growing number of individuals are opting to be infamous, rather than famous. The degree of their infamy varies, of course, ranging from graffiti and property destruction to the admission of rape and murder.

One thing appears to remain consistent: the digital world, and the public in general, is increasingly interested in horror and shock at the click of a mouse. It goes without saying that one should not commit a murder, nor post it on social media. If you see something online that is timely, you can make a difference by alerting the authorities to assist with the situation.

Tagging a photo of a dead friend on social media? How to explain that? Maybe shock took over, or maybe it was an attempt to bring attention to what happened. It begs us to ask: will this become a common occurrence?

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

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