Psychologists see link between PTSD, violent social media posts

Psychologists see link between PTSD, violent social media posts

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The introduction of live-stream to social media has allowed viewers to be able to see graphic, unedited content as it happens, something psychologists say could have a negative effect on users.

From a mother of 2 dying live on Facebook to a Chicago man being tortured and beaten live for the world to see, viewers no longer are witnessing events after they happen.

A study by Dr. Pam Ramsden, of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Bradford, found that viewing violent new events such as these on social media can cause people to experience symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"Social media has enabled violent stories and graphic images to be watched by the public in unedited horrific detail. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those directly experiencing them may impact on our daily lives," Ramsden said.

Dr. Bruce McCormick agrees. "Recently, we've seen some very disturbing things in the real world, in social media; and that can have a profound effect on the viewers."

The Shreveport psychologist says the side effects of seeing traumatizing videos vary.

"On one hand, the more exposure we have to violence, the greater the possibility that we will be desensitized and just stop paying attention and stop reacting with the emotional strength perhaps that such events occur," McCormick said.

However, he said, there is a difference between seeing something in person and seeing it on social media.

"The distinction between having something happen in real time and seeing it in person and seeing it on social media is mixed. Typically, when bad things happen in real time … we don't see them coming. So the element of surprise is there, and that may be somewhat less in social media."

Unlike the real world, if you are finding yourself having flashbacks of events that did not necessarily happen to you, you can detach yourself from social media.

"I think two things are very important in dealing with difficult material on social media," McCormick said.

"One is recognizing that computers and tablets do have an off switch. And if we feel like we are not prepared for or we have been overwhelmed by what we've seen, then we can restrict how much contact we have with those," he said.

"But you can't undo something that's been done. You can't un-see something that you've seen," McCormick continued.

"So we use the support we have from friends and family to help us cope with any kinds of stress."

Facebook's community standards say a user can report a live video as it's happening if they think it goes against those standards. A video only has to be reported once for a Facebook reviewer to look into the claims.

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