PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Shortly after Klein Michael Thaxton took his hostage, he used his victim’s iPhone and computer to turn to Facebook, posting, “i cant take it no more im done bro — how this ends is up to yall bro.”
Using social media under stress is no surprise for a 22-year-old, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Ari Lightman.
“They’re trying to reach out to their social circles,and trying to get information from friends associated with, ‘What are my next moves?’” Lightman told KDKA’s Jon Delano, “But also trying to communicate what their thoughts and feelings are.”
That’s exactly what Thaxton did, telling his father on Facebook, “welln pops youll never have to woryy about me again you’ll nevr need to by me anything no need to ever waste ur hard earned money on me. i’ll live n jail you dnt want me around anymore thats kool bye.”
Lightman says many Facebook and social media users want to convey real time emotion.
“It’s not business communications where you need to think about carefully constructing what you want to say,” notes Lightman. “It’s sort of taking the emotion that’s happening currently right now in real time and sending it out to folks within your social sphere.”
At one point, Thaxton posts: “this life im livn rite now i dnt want anymore ive lost everything and i aint gettn it back.”
That brought pleas from friends like — “its never as bad as it seems.”
While mostly positive, Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper worried that Facebook was distracting Thaxton, asking, “We would hope that his friends would stop communication on Facebook.”
Shortly thereafter, Thaxton’s Facebook page was shut down.
After it was all over, Chief Harper noted that Thaxton was reassured by his Facebook friends — that they really cared.
But the chief also warned that anyone who used Facebook to encourage to commit criminal acts could be liable.
Prof. Lightman says we are really at the early stages of social media’s role in these kinds of cases — but he wouldn’t be surprised if in years to come law enforcement uses Facebook and Twitter, not telephones, to negotiate these situations.