Date of Conferral







Eric Hickey


The frequency of mass murder has increased over the past decade, with nearly half of all mass murderers committing suicide. Previous researchers have found imitations of mass murderers which relate to suicide contagion, media contagion, and copycat effects; however, there remains a gap in the literature pertaining to the connection between copycat suicides of mass killers and the influence of social media. The purpose of this study was to provide a greater understanding of U.S. public mass murderers who commit copycat suicides based on the influence of social media. The constructivist conceptual framework guided the examination of a purposeful sample of 12 American mass murderers who committed suicide. The research questions aligned with Murray’s transcendent fantasy theory and Bandura’s social learning theory, and included an analysis of publicly available data. Six themes were identified among public mass murderers in the United States who committed suicide: (a) preoccupation with previous mass murderers, (b) suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts and planning and prior suicide attempts), (c) extreme isolation and computer use (social media, Internet, and violent video games), (d) presence of copycat behavior, (e) fame-seeking fantasies and media attention, and (f) preoccupation with the Columbine shooters. These findings contribute to existing research about mass murder, copycat behaviors, and social media influence. Bringing greater awareness of mass murderers, copycat suicides, and social media influence to the public, law enforcement, media outlets, and other stakeholders will promote improved identification and intervention of potential mass killers, as well as the educated distribution of information related to mass murder via social media, so that improved actions and reactions occur in society, enhancing positive social change.