Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > News

TikTok’s True Crime Fascination: Why You Should Be Worried

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 UCF chapter.

Content warning: this article discusses sensitive material, including murder.

On Nov. 13, 2022, four students at the University of Idaho were murdered inside their college house. This case is one that most people, especially college students are aware of, and know bits and pieces about.

The most knowledgeable about this case as they would like you to think is the true crimecommunity of TikTok. Prior to this case, a worryingly growing trend was already occurring, surrounding the fascination of true crime on TikTok. A prime example of this is the Gabby Petito case, which amassed wide coverage on TikTok, and as a result, many content creators emerged to take advantage of this situation. Junkee reports Hayley Toumaian, one of these people who created their TikTok brand around the case, posted 70 videos about the case in the span of only six days.

Personally, I stand in a rare position in terms of these cases, as both a forensic science major and somebody who has been heavily involved in true crime content on both YouTube, and TV series, such as Criminal Minds, and so forth. If you ask anyone on a college campus, you will get an astounding number of people who will respond to the question of whether or not they engage with true crime with an array of different shows spanning many decades and platforms. However, the rise of this content on TikTok is a completely new beast that needs to be analyzed and dissected.

The format of TikTok allows for these trending topics to be spoken of to a large extent, with an algorithm that supports the creation of these shortened videos on widely known topics. Once a topic begins to gain traction, however, this is where the issue arises. Due to this algorithm, it is easy for anyone and everyone to take advantage of a situation and use it for their own gain and clout.

In terms of the Idaho murders, the constant content I was fed from the day of the discovery was astronomical. There were specific accounts creating edits, sharing their opinions, and most worryingly placing blame on specific subjects. The theories after dissecting one CCTV video of a food truck, or even through the stalking of the victims and their friends and families’ Instagram and other social media accounts are in my opinion, worrying. It is so easy to spread these false rumors that I later saw repeated time after time, up to the present day, even following the release of the official affidavit and the arrest of Bryan Kohberger. Even more disgustingly, I still see the constant questioning of the actions of the remaining roommates and even placing blame on them for the murders.

The growing insensitivity towards true crime cases and their victims is the worst by-product of this trend. Suddenly one misguided thought turns into whole internet speculation, going on to ruin the lives of those grieving.

In addition to this trend, other digestion of true crime content on TikTok has led to other dangerous ramifications. The constant reiterations of Jeffrey Dahmer edits and use of templates from the show DAHMER are still used today, even though it was released in September 2022. This comes even after the victims’ own families spoke out against the show and the glorification of yet another serial killer, as reported by Variety.

We as consumers of this ever-growing content must relearn to critically think about what we consume and how this makes us think and feel. We can’t stand by and watch the reputation of people be destroyed by a random person making a video on something they don’t know about, at all. Instead of taking these videos at their word, and giving them the likes and comments they crave, we need to take a stance on the exploitative nature of true crime content and, instead, respect the memory of the victims and those that grieve for them, as their memory will remain longer than the trend will.

Eliza is a junior at the University of Central Florida, studying Biology and Criminal Justice. She hails from the land down under (Melbourne, Australia), and when she isn't at Disney, she is hanging out with her cat, her roommates and going on boba runs.