Life & Death, Live and Direct

8:46 PM.  Westside, Chicago, IL.  June 2016.  Anthony Perkins, 28, is hanging out with friends in front of a home in the Lawndale neighborhood.  As he records himself and others on Facebook Live, you can hear a small child playing in the background.  Moments later, Perkins yells “Boy stop playing” to someone he recognizes walking towards him.  Several shots ring out and Perkins lay dead.  His phone, resting in bloody grass, streamed the entire incident on Facebook Live.

9:05 PM. Falcon Heights, MN.  July 2016.  Diamond Reynolds records on Facebook Live as her boyfriend, an elementary school cafeteria supervisor, lay bleeding to death next to her.  Philando Castille is later pronounced dead as a result of a gunshot wound after a traffic stop by St. Paul police.

3:00 AM.  Miami Gardens, FL. January 2017.  Police officers enter a home after being contacted by teenagers concerned about their friend’s well-being.  They initially arrive at the wrong address, yet soon thereafter reach the correct home.  Upon entering the foster home of Naika Venant, police and her foster parents found Naika hanging from a shower glass door frame.

She posted a 2-hour video on Facebook Live as she meticulously created a noose out of a scarf before committing suicide. Her foster mother initially claimed that she was sleep and unaware; however, authorities discover that the foster mother allegedly watched and coaxed Naika during the entire live stream.

As we continue to blur the lines between social media and real life, the impact of viewing death like never before has untold effects on our psyche.  The question comes to mind – what motivates someone to want to hurt themselves or others live on social media?

From a psychological perspective, the answer is quite simple – going live boosts our level of self-esteem by generating instant gratification with likes and comments.  There is a biological component as well.  While most of our decisions are made in