With Facebook friends like these, who needs enemies?
Police in Des Moines, Iowa, have arrested 30-year-old Jennifer Christine Harris (pictured left) for allegedly setting her neighbor's house on fire, according to the Des Moines Register. The suspected motive? Retribution for being "de-friended" on the popular social networking site.
Nikki and Jim Rasmussen awoke to the sound of a loud "boom" around 1 a.m., officials said, and escaped the home just as the siding on their house began to melt.
When asked who might have caused the fire, Jim Rasmussen named Harris as the prime suspect. She and Nikki Rasmussen had a falling out on Facebook, he told police, when a party invitation that his wife volunteered to create for Harris yielded a high number of "declines."
After a large volume of text and Facebook messages, the dispute escalated to the point where Nikki Rasmussen "de-friended" Harris. She and Harris had been the best of friends before the dispute, according to The Associated Press.
But don't be surprised that online spats can turn just as serious as arguments in-person, says psychology professor Kip Williams of Purdue University, who coined the term "cyber-ostracism" to describe a recent phenomenon of social exclusion online.
"We don't really see a difference between face-to-face and online ostracism," Williams told AOL Real Estate. "They both hurt; they both threaten our fundamental sense of self-esteem."
He would not, however, classify arson as a typical response to social exclusion -- online or otherwise.
"Yes, people's feelings are hurt after de-friending and they may be angry," he said, "But I don't think we'd expect this sort of overt criminal behavior unless other actions were combined."
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