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Social Media and Dahmer: Have We Become Desensitized to True Crime?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

Let’s admit it: we’re all obsessed with true crime. We listen to the Crime Junkie podcast on the bus to class and watch every murder documentary that Netflix has to offer. Nowadays, social media is practically heaven for true crime lovers. We have access to endless stories to satisfy our morbid curiosity, but creators and social media users might be crossing the line by capitalizing on victims’ tragedies. 

In lieu of the release of the Netflix original series, “Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” we are reminded of just how much true crime and serial killers are terrifyingly a major part of pop culture. A recent TikTok trend shows users making videos to the song “Please Don’t Go” by K.C & The Sunshine Band, which plays in the show whenever Dahmer (played by Evan Peters) kills another victim. In these TikToks, people who watched the Netflix show brag about how the show did not affect them, claiming that they were “unfazed” by the gruesome content.

Users participating in this trend are receiving backlash in their comment sections; various people say that it is not “a flex” to be so unaffected by such violence. Why are these people so unaffected? Do they simply have stronger stomachs? Or, has true crime become so prevalent in the media that our society has become desensitized to it?

TikTok creators know how much we love true crime and share thousands of stories on the app, often with multiple parts to increase their views per video. MrBallen (@mrballen) is a very popular true-crime TikToker. He has over 8 million followers and almost 200 million likes. Most of his videos have over 5 million views. 

Some serial killers have become celebrities; die-hard crime enthusiasts research everything they can get their hands on to understand these killers’ horribly strange and violent minds; other “fans” are apologists for such serial killer crimes. In fact, dozens of women were present at Ted Bundy’s trial, claiming to be in love with him and preaching his innocence. This glorification has changed with social media; after the recent success of “Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” some of Dahmer’s belongings from prison are being sold. Currently, his glasses are being sold for $150,000.

Yet, are streaming services and social media platforms capitalizing on the tragedies of true crime victims? Bailey Sarian, an L.A-based makeup artist who tells true crime stories while doing extravagant makeup looks was asked in an interview with the BBC if she feels like she’s ever exploiting the victims. 

Sarian said, “Now that my channel’s grown I do feel like I have more responsibility about what I say so my approach has been to focus more on the killers and not mention so much the victims or show pictures of them” (The YouTuber making millions from true crime and make-up – BBC News).

2022 is the “year of the Dahmer.” In addition to the Netflix biopic starring Evan Peters, the streaming service also released a limited-docu series called “Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes” on October 7th. With the popularity of other documentaries in this series about serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, Netflix undoubtedly jumped at the opportunity to release the tapes in tandem with the scripted biopic produced by Ryan Murphy. 

With the copious amounts of true crime content, the obsession with these stories is not going away, but we should think about how we consume them. Remember the victims; they’re the people who matter!

Emily Ranieri

Rutgers '24

Emily is a senior majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. She loves reading, movies, art, and music.