This past week has seen two alarming events that may be the start of a disturbing new social media trend: murder confessions. On PostSecret, a blog that accepts creative user submissions in the form of a postcard with a secret on them, received an entry with the line “I said she dumped me, but really I dumped her (body)” written on it. The postcard was an unclear map with an arrow pointing to a specific location. Although the submission was later revealed to be a hoax, Internet users were horrified about the implications.
Simultaneously, Matthew Cordle confessed to killing a man while driving drunk in a video that he uploaded to YouTube. The Ohio man explained that he wanted to take “full responsibility” for his actions by turning himself in. The video went viral with over a million views, but reactions towards it are mixed. Unlike the PostSecret one, Cordle’s confession is real, and he was indicted for aggravated vehicular homicide on Monday.
These two events follow another murderer posting his crime on Facebook: a Florida man brutally murdered his wife, then shared a picture of her blood-stained body on his account. It’s not a “confession” exactly, but it amounts to the same thing.
These admissions of guilt are chilling, and they lead social media users to wonder if sharing has finally gone too far. Many viewers of Cordle’s YouTube video worry that he was trying to make some sort of hero of himself by confessing. Similarly, these murderers may be after their 15 minutes of fame and attention.
Michele Nealon-Woods, national president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, states that these murder confessions are not a new phenomenon. She uses 1888 serial killer “Jack the Ripper,” who was believed to have sent letters to the police giving tips about his crimes, as an example.
However, Nealon-Woods does admit that there is a more sinister aspect to confessing crimes to social media, rather than the old-fashioned ways. “We’ve removed that human interaction, and that is giving people a false sense of the extremes they can go to,” she said. Nealon-Woods even goes as far as to say that common Internet trolls fall under the same category of people who are maladjusted to the social media revolution. “It’s one of those things that are evolving. It has been a major, really disruptive innovation in our lives and, like anything that us human beings do, it’s taking us quite a while to adapt and change and respond.”
For many of us, these events are like something out of a horror movie, a new added layer of darkness to a story that is familiar to us in the form of crime shows. Yet Nealon-Woods sees a bright-side to this frightful development: “The good news is that compulsion to brag about getting away with these activities increases the probability of getting caught,” she said. “Without social media, it would have been much harder to find the culprits, much less prosecute (them).”
Donaghue, Erin. “‘Murder confession’ sent to community mail website PostSecret was a hoax, say Chicago police.” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57601160-504083/murder-confession-sent-to-community-mail-website-postsecret-was-a-hoax-say-chicago-police/. (9 Sept. 2013).
Walsh, Michael. “Drunk driver Matthew Cordle’s video confession leads to indictment.”
Gross, Doug. “Why people share murder, rape on Facebook.”