Why and when does aggressive content on social media turn into offline violence?

Increasing evidence suggests that social media plays a role in the transmission of firearm violence in high-poverty, urban neighbourhoods in the US. However, the exact pathways by which content on social media becomes threatening has not been studied. A research team at the Columbia University consider a dataset of tweets by gang-involved Chicago youth that are coded for expressions of aggression and/or loss. Findings confirm prior qualitative observations and theory that loss and aggressive behaviour on Twitter are connected. The findings underscore the idea that online behavior is rooted in offline events.

The multiple day opening provides an opportunity to provide resources to young people before their grieving turns to aggression. The time between loss and aggressive tweets could be used to prevent offline violence by providing grief counselling and other mental health services as well as traditional clinical practices.

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