It’s hard to miss the news stories. Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree in Santa Barbara killing 7 people. There had been mention of his participation in an online hate chat room that bashed young people that were successful in the dating world. His posts reveal someone deeply distressed and bolstered in his resentments by a supportive group of strangers. Isolation and hatred find support in online chat rooms. Did this chat room lead to the eventual rampage? I wouldn’t go that far. However, I do believe he gathered the support that overcame any reluctance he might have had. At least, it did nothing to ease the situation. And sadly, it certainly didn’t develop any social skills despite it being ironically referred to as a part of Social Media.
From my perch on the other side of the couch, adolescents are struggling with the development of social engagement skills. In one sense there is a social aspect to virtual relationships. However, virtual relationships are not real. No matter how much of an investment one makes in chatting with e-friends the result is decidedly unfulfilling. The relationship is with a phone or a keyboard – not a person. In addition the medium of media is essentially depersonalizing. No one really has 3,000 friends. 3,000 e-friends as compared to real world friends is more like what an extensive collection of porn is when compared to an offline loving and intimate relationship.
The unreality of it all is enhanced by the creation of and living through avatars. These essentially idealized representations of aspects of a personality strengthen the aspects they portray (whether good or bad.) Again, once the person behind the avatar unplugs they are left with their “deficient” (non avatar) self with whatever hungers were further ignited and further unsatisfied.
Elliot Rodger’s involvement and investment in his online hate group, a group founded by persons more adept at media than social skills, led him to being more adept in the socially isolated world of social media than he was adept at asking a girl to the movies. He became more adept at typing than at overcoming rejection. More adept at anger that at acquiring true social skills
Check back tomorrow. I am going to add some startling facts about electronic media.