Antisocial media: Facebook may heighten fear

Social media is impacting peoples’ perception of safety. Photo: Caitlyn Watts.

A Perth crime expert says more people are carrying weapons to protect themselves after being exposed to crime stories on social media.

Edith Cowan University criminology researcher Natalie Gately said people had stopped doing things that enhance their everyday wellbeing because they were scared of being attacked.

“The crime rates are at an all-time low in Perth and the murder rates in Australia are going down,” she said.

“Our perception however is that we are living in a more and more dangerous place.”

Dr Gately said this fear was causing people to carry knives and other weapons when they went out.

“You are getting people armed and ready to protect themselves, and that’s the fear factor, and we’ve never been like that as a culture,” she said.

Dr Gately said this increased fear of crime came from people constantly exposed to information on social media.

“People repost updates from the police page, and that’s now starting to infiltrate Facebook, where it’s usually just your friends showing their happy snaps,” she said.

“You’re not seeking it by online news sites, it’s feeding into your everyday posts.”

Research into the link between social media consumption and fear of crime was conducted by Ball State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology in December 2017.

The American study, published in Computers in Human Behaviour, surveyed 918 college students and found a positive correlation between social media consumption and fear of crime.

Dr Gately said this correlation could be a result of Facebook’s commenting tool, which allowed victims to tell their story to a wider audience.

According to statistics from the Western Australian Police Force, in 2008-09 there were 9630 non-family assaults, 1656 robberies and 31,151 property damages in the Perth metropolitan region.

By 2016-17, these offences reduced to 8653, 1174 and 23,625 respectively.

Perth social media expert Meg Coffey said there were many positive aspects of Facebook, however people needed to be wary of the information came into their feed.

“If you’re somebody who’s easily influenced, if you’re seeing negative stuff come through your feed all the time and you’re reacting to it, then you’re going to get even more negative stuff and it’s going to have an impact on you,” she said.

Both experts agreed it was important to be aware of crime, but it shouldn’t stop you from living your life.

“Be alert, not alarmed,” Dr Gately said.

Categories: Crime, Media

Tagged as: , ,