Professor: Social media use could foster radicalization

Professor: Social media use could foster radicalization

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The Church shooting and the massacre in Las Vegas were only about a month apart. Both are two of the deadliest mass murders in modern history.

Over the last 12 years, the U.S. has seen a large uptick in social media use. According to a Pew Research study, more than 70 percent of Americans on these sites. That is up from around 5 percent in 2005. 

Lisa Low studies social media at Texas Tech. She said this explosion has triggered problems in today's society.

"We literally see polarization come about and some of the more negative things that come about, we can all agree the country is divided and we're in a very decisive age right now so a lot of that is due to this echo chamber effect in social media," Low said. "You see these polarized groups kind of self-identifying and then they just agree with each other and whether it's fact based information or erroneous information, they will share that information and make it spread and grow."

Through this isolation online, it is feasible that some users can be driven to violence.

"They're essentially able to neutralize society in their head and say, 'I am morally justified in stopping these people because they are destroying me and they are not good for society and you can find all of that developing through what they read and find on the internet and some of it's very direct," said Dr. Martha Smithey, a Texas Tech professor in criminology.

Low said despite the evidence that some are reassured in their beliefs online and the potential for radicalization, she is not quite ready to connect the dots between social media use and violent acts.

"We do know that there's a correlation between anxiety and depression and heavy social media use," she said. "We do see that and there are extensive publications to that effect. Mass shootings, I'd really have to stop short there."

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