A Social Media Biography of a Spree Killer, Part 1

This is the story of how I, Elliot Rodger, came to be.[4]

This is a social media biography of a spree killer, an analysis and reconstruction of a digital life.

The Digital Self

Elliot Rodger’s personal essay, My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger, is a chronological account of Rodger’s life. Rodger writes his life as an unalterable timeline with hopes and dreams eliminated as his perspective narrows. He would never be wealthy. He wouldn’t win the lottery. Writers don’t make millions per book. Women weren’t going to throw themselves at him.

The whole area was full of young people enjoying their pleasurable little lives. I saw groups of good looking popular boys and girls gleefully walking together…  It was very hard to deal with. I quickly drove back to my apartment and cried to myself, soaking my pillow in the tears of my agony.[5]

We read his social autobiography in reverse chronology, starting with his suicide, going back through the murders to his “retribution” video to the police visiting his home. Most of us won’t get to the beginning, the boy building a snowman too far down the timeline to be significant to our cause-and-effect readings.

Sex: a validation; a singular act that would 1) demonstrate Rodger’s strength, 2) serve as “a form of peaceful revenge” against all those who insulted him, and 3) portent a happy, fulfilled life.

We don’t have all the information.

Rodger recorded videos of himself and posted them on YouTube. He talked about his loneliness and anger, and outlined his plans. His final video, “Retribution,” was removed after the killing spree.

Rodger wrote a 137-page essay that is part autobiography and part manifesto. He emailed My Twisted World to 34 recipients after his first two murders. Rodger left 4 blank pages at the end. The pdf document was posted on document sharing sites and is still available.

Rodger participated in online forums like Bodybuilding.com and PUAhate.com. Bodybuilding.com removed Rodger’s posts. Puahate.com, a website for men disillusioned with pick-up-artist sites, closed their forums after the killings. Some posts are still available in archives and screen shots.

Rodger’s Facebook page was taken down. Pages honoring Rodger went up shortly after the murders. Facebook removed some for violation of their terms of use policy.

We have enough information to compose a compelling narrative. We can follow Rodger through time and space. We can track his travels. See his airplane selfies. Drive with him to school. We can watch and listen to him comfortably from our virtual distance. We can conduct a posthumous surveillance.

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