Unless I miss my guess, it would seem depression fueled mass murders are on the rise and the people involved are increasingly providing hidden clues about their state of mind beforehand; perhaps in a bid for help. Specifically, a tragic murder/suicide that recently occurred in New Jersey highlights the increased use of social media by the perpetrator to express his/her mindset.
In this awful turn of events in Old Bridge, New Jersey, a 23 year old former marine called Terence Tyler shot two co-workers at a Pathmark supermarket and then turned a handgun on himself. Tyler was working the overnight shift, and law enforcement officials say he left around 3:30 am and returned a short time later armed with a handgun and semi-automatic rifle. He then proceeded to unload more than 16 rounds into the store and at employees, killing Christina LoBrutto, 18, and Bryan Breen, 24, after which he took his own life.
As usual, after the events took place some came forth with 20/20 hindsight and one employee even said she steered clear of Tyler: “the way he looked at me, he gave me an uneasy vibe.” I’m not trying to disrespect anyone, but I think that’s pure B.S., and just illustrates how disconnected people have become.
In light of this rampage, the messages he posted on twitter in 2009 obviously carried some weight: “is it normal to want to kill ALL of ur coworkers?” “I’m starting to see why plp go on killin sprees,” and “these (obscenity) are reeeeeeally pushin my kill everyone I see button.”
Normally, this would probably be seen as just another jab at extremely dark, sarcastic humor, but given that he was struggling with depression and had left the marines as a result, a closer look was probably warranted. His family also says he had never been able to overcome the grief from his mother’s death five years prior.
Of course, not every single tweet or random Facebook posting should be examined for hidden meaning. However, I do think this highlights a communication breakdown in our society and that face-to-face interaction is increasingly being traded for sound and text bytes.
As such, I’m not the one to post final judgment, but it seems that from a purely analytical standpoint, social media is becoming more important for conducting employment background checks. And while many employers are doing so, I don’t think they’re approaching it the right way. I guess the psychologists will probably have to make the final call, as there is no doubt society is becoming more complex, and not every person who decides to post unusual or sensationalistic comments intends to kill or harm someone.
Either way, perhaps these events highlight the need for a different kind of employment screening program. That is, instead of concentrating on past felonies, convictions, etc; and given the extremely social nature of the internet, a behavior analyzing screening program should be created that pools social media profiles into a central database and spits out a verdict. Of course this wouldn’t be the final verdict, but it would certainly provide a clearer picture of someone’s “hidden” personality.