Forensic Psychologists Examine Why Criminals Post Crimes on Social Media

For those of us who live quiet, law-abiding lives, it seems difficult to imagine why anyone would incriminate themselves by posting videos of a crime in progress, or activity leading up to a crime. Yet an article in the Guardian reports that crime connected with social media have risen 780% over the last four years. The posts ranged from grooming, stalking, and social media used to post evidence of criminal activitypreparatory statements to “selfies” of violent crimes in progress. Police are challenged with having to walk a fine line between allowing freedom of speech and getting ahead of real threats.

Forensic Psychologist Look for Causes

Forensic psychologists are examining this phenomenon and have come to one conclusion: the people who are posting videos of violent crimes against humans, and those who post videos of cruel behavior toward animals, are seeking attention. They want to be noticed for their actions.

It isn’t new behavior. Jack the Ripper, for example, sent letters about his crimes all over London. The investigative tools now available were in their infancy, so despite publicity, he wasn’t caught.

Why Study the Behavior

How Stuff Works has an entry that delves into the kinds of information that might be considered by forensic psychologists, such as things various serial killers have had in common. Three common areas seem to be childhood neglect or abuse, mental illness and brain injury.

Three Possible Causes


Babies and young children develop along the same lines, regardless of their background. If, for some reason, certain types of attention are not paid to the youngster during critical stages of development they do not learn appropriate behaviors for love, trust, empathy and the rules for generally getting along with others. While neglect does not always produce a serial killer, serial killers frequently have been deprived of appropriate nurturing in these critical stages.

Mental Illness

Mental illness comes in all sorts of degrees and types, ranging from little social tics that can be ignored or managed to major difficulties requiring professional help. Mental illness certainly does not make someone a potential serial killer, but many serial killers were or are mentally ill.

Brain Injury

Brain injury can create drastic emotional changes. Depending on the location and type of injury, the changes can be so dramatic as to make the sufferer seem like a completely different person. The brain is still a mystery to be examined, and many studies still need to be done, but it is known that some types of head trauma can have a life-altering impact on behavior.

Is There a Conclusion?

Have forensic psychologists determined why criminals post their actions on social media? Not in certain terms, but they are coming up with theories. It seems as if some criminal defendants believe that their actions are justified, and their posts show pride in their actions. Certain terrorists were encouraged to broadcast video of suicide bombings, letting others of like-mind see the results of their actions. But one single theme runs through the theories: the perpetrators want to be recognized for their actions.

Forensic psychologists examine the behavior and motivation behind antisocial and illegal actions in the hope that such behaviors might be prevented. It might be too much to hope that correction for the base causes could be found.