Given my background in clinical psychology, the driving force behind what makes someone confess to a crime via social media fascinates me. Take the case of Derek Medina in Florida. By now we all have heard about how Derek confessed on Facebook to killing his wife, and how he even posted a picture of her corpse. Sharing too much on the various social media platforms is nothing new. But just what is it that makes someone go that extra step and post online the details of their involvement in a crime?
An article in CNN Tech by Dough Gross, Why people share murder, rape on Facebook, touches on the psychology behind cases like that of Derek Medina’s. In this article, Gross paraphrased Michele Nealon-Woods, national president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, in suggesting that "[t]he physically isolating aspect of social media is probably part of the equation .... When we can communicate with other people without seeing or hearing them, something in the brain makes it harder to remember that there are still consequences for what we say ...."
False sense of privacy.
In general, text messaging and social media forums have created in us a seeming need to announce and share our every move and thought. This, coupled with a false sense of privacy one gets when communicating with friends (or others we have let into our social circles) via Facebook or Twitter, or some other social media, is why sharing incriminating info online is likely to be unaffected by the potential for arrest.
There are many recent examples in the news of people taking photos or videotaping their involvement in a crime and then posting it on social media. See When oversharing online can get you arrested, by Lauren Russel on CNN Tech. Two 2013 incidents include: 1) the two Steubenville football players who were found guilty in early 2013 of raping a drunken 16-year-old-girl, and 2) a Facebook status update posted by Astoria, Oregon resident Jacob Cox-Brown, 18, which read, "Drivin drunk... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P"
The new social norm?
The inability to keep secret or confess one’s involvement in a crime is nothing new. What is new is the use of social media to do it. As Professor Susan Rozelle at Stetson University College of Law said in Russell’s article, "People have always said foolish things … but now they have the ability to say it louder and to more people."