In wake of mass shootings, psychologist breaks down how social media fosters aggression

Forensic psychologist Dr. Stephen Bloomfield joins us to discuss the connection between social media use and recent mass shootings, and how many teenagers are using social media to foster aggression and violence.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Texas is in mourning and investigators are still looking for a motive in the mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

We know the gunman made chilling posts on social media. There are a lot of people blasting social media for glorifying violence and adding to the threat our children face.

The 18-year-old who walked into that Texas classroom and killed 19 students and two teachers made three brazen posts on a direct messaging app.

The first, a half-hour before the attack read, “I’m going to shoot my grandmother.” The second was, “I shot my grandmother.” The third was posted about 15 minutes before the rampage. It read, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.”

He had also allegedly posted disturbing images online to another social media site prior to carrying out the attack.

While little can be done to prevent people from making threats online, psychologists say parents need to be more aware of how people, especially teenagers, are using social media to foster aggression and violence.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Stephen Bloomfield says they think they’re having a conversation, but not the kind of conversations those who are mentally well are used to.

The conversation is virtual and is a dissociated factor,” Bloomfield said. “It’s a hard concept to get your head around, but people on social media say things and do things that they normally wouldn’t say face to face or even in a face to face Zoom where you have an interaction with someone and there’s a reaction.

“So, what happens is there’s a combination of what we call dissociated behavior,” Bloomfield said. “They disassociate from reality, they disassociate from a sense of humanity and at the same time they get reinforced for posting these things because no one is stopping them. Although these red flags are clear and they have to be attended to as quickly as possible.

Some people on social media who turn violent lose their filter and feel a sense of entitlement. Bloomfield says they become disassociated from reality and view what they see on social media as a “real-life video game.”

“So what’s happening with this, these people on social media, is that if they get reinforced, they get to be the center of the world, they get to feel important,” Bloomfield said. “It relates back to their whole lives. Many of them were abused, neglected, abandoned, have reactive attachment disorders where they weren’t the center of a positive life. So, they gain that kind of reinforcement in an artificial virtual manner.”

Just as disturbing, according to Bloomfield, is they forget or ignore the value of life, both the lives of others and the value of their own. Basically, he says, they just don’t care.

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