BBC. This looks like a horrible story with a sensationalist internet component, but it's actually more culturally significant than that.UK police have reported that a man who murdered his wife this Spring did so because he was upset after seeing her change her marital status to "single" on Facebook, according to coverage today from the
The integration of new social networking into the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world is dramatically changing communication and introducing unknown new dynamics into ages old-interpersonal issues, including psychosis and violence. There are new questions to ask.
The man in the news story had been estranged from his wife and became "enraged" after seeing her changed Facebook status, according to police. The act of declaring oneself finished with a bad relationship is something that people have done throughout history, but social networking in general and Facebook in particular change the way that such an event occurs. Of course the violence isn't Facebook's fault in any way, but in trying to understand human relations, interpersonal and domestic violence, this is an undeniable example of the way that the internet is changing our world. It could have been MySpace, or any other social network - this is a story about increased connectivity, privacy controls and the speed with which information is transmitted.
The Ways of the Newsfeed
Was the woman aware that by changing her status, the man would receive a post on his Facebook newsfeed? Did she know how to exclude him from such updates if she had wished to? Did the man worry that he would be publicly humiliated when other people received the same kind of notice on their newsfeed? Did he picture a particular group of people who would see it and was that picture accurate? Do we need to teach children new social skills about dealing with semi-public information online, like the end of a relationship?
There used to be a time when people could quietly signal to their friends that their relationship status was changed and could take certain steps to control who knew that information. At least it was likely to spread relatively slowly, compared to the pace with which it spreads now.
Communication in social networks is unlike our previous forms of communication in some important ways. In some cases that will inevitably have tragic consequences.
That's our take on this story. We welcome readers' perspectives as well.