Reporter Shooting Rouses Social Media Debate

On the Upper West Side, an area rife with parents walking their children in strollers and executives catching the train at 72nd Street, many people say they are shocked by alleged shooter Vester Lee Flanagan’s decision to post a deadly attack on social media.

In the hours after killing reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, Flanagan allegedly uploaded raw footage of the shooting to his Facebook page.

While some believe social media is a driving factor for gun violence, others think one can exist without the other.

Debra Morrison, 47, of Edmonton, Alberta, said she thinks social media plays a role in encouraging all types of behavior, whether violent or otherwise.

“There is a sector of the community looking for an excuse to take their frustration out,” she said. “They get encouraged when they find people on Facebook with really strong opinions.”

“With social media, you’re always just trying to one-up each other,” said Casey Matheny, 28, a personal stylist living on the Upper West Side. “If you’ve got that kind of mind, you can really get your point across quickly.”

Pausing to shake her head and look at her baby son in his stroller, Matheny added: “It’s crazy.”

“Using social media gives you this instant publicity,” said Liz DeVito, a 61-year-old market researcher of the Upper West Side. “[He’s] a perpetrator self-publishing.”

But Michael Woodruff, 36, said he doesn’t believe social media leads to gun violence.

“You want to have exaggerated effects,” said Woodruff as his eyes widened. “Social media is an enabler to have a dramatic impact. But I don’t think it works the other way around.”

Woodruff, an employee of Citibank, said that while he thinks social media provides a platform for people who want to publish their crimes, he doesn’t believe Facebook influences a criminal.

“A hundred years ago, you could’ve read a newspaper article about a murderer and committed the same act,” he said. “It’s easier today but I don’t think social media has to lead to gun violence.”

But for Janet Pickup, a mother and grandmother, social media is a serious problem.

Pickup, 60, of Salt Lake City, Utah, said she returned from Canada the day after the attack and hadn’t heard about it.

“It makes me want to cry,” she said, after learning what happened.

“People who commit those kinds of crimes have a vendetta or need they are trying to fill,” said Pickup. “They need recognition and Facebook supplies that vehicle.”

Her eyes filled with tears.

“It’s so sad,” she said, crying and gesturing to her baby grandson in his stroller. “It’s so scary these guys have to grow up in a world like that.”

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