Wednesday, September 2, 2009...1:32 pm

Facebook, obsession, murder

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Facebook_2You have to love newspapers’ obsession with social media. Whether it’s the Twittering of Stephen Fry et al or the latest security breach involving Facebook, the news media are all over it – irrespective of whether their readers know the difference between a Tweet and a twat. 
This latest example from the Metro pushes a whole lot of buttons – murder, obsession, jealousy… and social media. Fantastic. But, of course, when you actually read the story, it kind of falls apart.
So – the paper pitches the idea that a Hayley Jones’s lover, Brian Lewis, stabbed and strangled her (or strangled and stabbed, depending on where you are in the story) because she “changed her status from ‘married’ to ‘single'” on Facebook, causing him to fly into a jealous rage. Oh the dangers of social media!
Uh, yeah. 
Actually, what happened was that she told him the relationship was over.
Aha, you cry, but at the same time she changed her status on Facebook to single. That must have hurt.
Yes. But although the couple did apparently argue about how long Jones was spending online, the most revealing statement in the story comes from prosecuting barrister Mark Evans. 
In court he said:

She was quite secretive about [her Facebook use], preventing Lewis from using the site and turning the computer off. It is quite clear that this rankled with him.

So. Let’s get this straight. She stopped him from using the site. That would be the site on which she changed her status. The news of which is supposed to have sent him into a murderous rage.
OK, so he might have seen the status update. But, you know, it’s not convincingly argued that he did, let alone that this is what lay behind the crime.
For God’s sake – there’s enough here to make a front page splash without twisting the story into something it’s not (or at least doesn’t seem to be).
The Metro could have made hay about Jones’s alleged internet obsession. And certainly there’s a story here about the fact that they had money worries after Lewis lost his job, and that he may have had a problem with Jones starting work herself. 
But a murder over mundane and concrete issues such as financial tension and a couple’s probable communication breakdown just isn’t as exciting to today’s journalism as a murder over someone’s Facebook status. 
Which this actually isn’t. A lesson that hardly any journalists seem to have learned: correlation is not causality.

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