Examining impact of social media on society after deadly TV news shooting

Moments before and after Vester Flanagan took the lives of his two former co-workers, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, he was on social media posting about it.

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Chris Robinson is a former cameraman at a television station, and now he works at Columbus State where he teaches classes that touch on social media. He says that when those on television, like Ward and Parker are on live television, they are in a different frame of mind where their only focus is on the story. “By the time they would have been able to react, the gunman was so close to them that they just didn’t have a chance to do anything,” Robinson said.

Robinson also says social media is transforming people. It changes the way people see themselves, the world and changes what they want to be. He also offers a potential reason as to why Flanagan shot his two, former co-workers during a live broadcast Wednesday morning. “This individual sought out to commit a horrible crime and he wanted that recognition,” Robinson said. “He wanted to show people what he was doing. He wanted to take credit for it.”

Robinson says that people crave recognition when they post to social media, and Flanagan’s posts gave him the viewership and recognition Robinson says he most likely desired. “This individual sought out to commit a horrible crime and he wanted that recognition,” Robinson said. He wanted to show people what he was doing. He wanted to take credit for it.” Robinson says “it [recognition] becomes almost like a drug to so many people and that’s why they can’t stop and that’s why it is the most important thing to check social media or to contribute to social media either at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day and at any time throughout the day.”

As social media continues to evolve, Robinson says the dependence on it will only get worse.

Robinson added that the tragedy that took place in Virginia on Wednesday, would spark a conversation among the journalism community as to how stories are covered in the field.

Robinson says that what unfolded today will become a part of his lessons in his social media classes. “This is the worst case scenario, nightmare of what can happen with social media and also what can happen on the job,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t get any worse than someone losing their life. And that’s very serious and it’s very sad, but that is the reality of what can happen if the perfect storm of elements come together, and it was played out over social media.”

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