A Social Media Biography of a Spree Killer, Part 2

Police found 492 images on Rodger’s phone; about 200 of them were selfies. Visually, selfies are a cross between the glossy images of mass media and the grainy impersonal images produced by surveillance systems. The use of digital filters and the numerous retakes to perfect a pose align the selfie with studio produced glamour shots. But, the proximity of the camera to the face often results in unfocused images or close ups that pixelate us.

We willingly surveil ourselves. Our photographs place us at the scene. We geotag our updates. Our selfies provide our virtual audience a representation that allows them to identify us. We write our lifes out on the web. We write to share our experience. We write to better understand our world.

Rodger composed media and shared it with anyone who would spend the time to watch/listen/read about him. He revealed his growing awareness of male/female relationships, sex, and his marginalized place in youth culture. He tried to show us that life is unfair, that his timeline was a series of narrowing options. Through his limited lens, Rodger gave us a digital snapshot of his life. He put it all out there. He convinced himself to commit mass murder and composed himself accordingly.

My orchestration of the Day of Retribution is my attempt to do everything, in my power, to destroy everything I cannot have. All of those beautiful girls I’ve desired so much in my life, but can never have because they despise and loathe me, I will destroy. All of those popular people who live hedonistic lives of pleasure, I will destroy, because they never accepted me as one of them.[4]

We have the power to influence ourselves. We say we are going to do something and we are more likely to do it. We write it down to emphasize its importance. We create the context for our feelings and write the stage directions for our actions. We put up an image of ourselves that welcomes a response. Rodger lined the streets of Isla Vista with bodies. He staged a personal genocide, exterminating parts of himself: his Asianness represented by his Chinese roommates; his desires by the women of Alpha Phi Sorority; his fantasy self by the happy youth of Isla Vista. Finally, he killed himself.

Rodger’s text rings true. He did what he said he would do. We see honesty in revelations that he cried in his pillow after seeing couples together. We recognize a lack of filters when he tells us that he masturbated while listening to his sister have sex with her boyfriend. He doesn’t hide his feelings. He narrates the details of his anger, compassion, envy, admiration, nostalgia, and lust.

My Twisted World is a long profile page. We don’t see empathy. Rodger doesn’t express guilt. We see his world through his words. We recognize parts of his story, but know it is eschew, a little off, twisted.

Revenge became a surrogate for sex. If Rodger couldn’t have it, revenge against the young people who were sexually active would have to substitute. Rodger’s narcissism dictated that he either received what he wanted or he denied it to everyone else. His inability to control his emotions and critically reflect on his narcissism led him to see violence as an acceptable reaction to perceived slights. Anger and violence were forms of agency that allowed him to control his story and rebuke the claim that he was weak.

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