The Gabby Petito Case Is Forcing Us To Reckon With Our Collective True Crime Obsession
“It is concerning that people feel such liberty to turn to their TikTok accounts and post and talk so openly about the case, as if they were gossiping to friends about it.”
On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed the Gabby Petito case. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!
BuzzFeed Daily: Before we get into your article, can you give our listeners a quick summary of the Gabby Petito case? What exactly happened?
BuzzFeed Daily: In the last week, this story really gained national media attention. But that has a lot to do with TikTok. Can you explain the role that TikTok played in circulating this story?
TC: So from the time the initial reports of Gabby going missing started circulating, I remember logging into TikTok even just like moments — definitely within an hour or so — and people were already kind of openly discussing the case in videos that were kind of going viral in live time and being pushed onto the For You Page, or at least my For You Page.
It created this open forum for people to hypothesize what could have happened, who was at fault, this kind of scramble to find clues online on Gabby's Instagram page and on the couple's YouTube channel. And even her Spotify was mined. So it definitely played a role in furthering the attention that this case got.
BuzzFeed Daily: The piece you wrote for BuzzFeed News is all about true crime fans, particularly the ones you're describing now on TikTok. There are tons of internet sleuths who have been trying to help solve the case, but at the same time, there are some TikTokers who are maybe using the Gabby Petito case to bolster their own following, since this is just now going so viral. How do you discern whether these shooters motives are actually noble or if they're just being opportunistic?
TC: So the TikTok user who I interviewed for that piece characterized it really nicely. Her name is Jessica Dean. She had kind of lived through the infamous Slenderman stabbing and had known many people involved in that case personally. So she has a really good perspective on not only this, but the true crime frenzy of it all, that she reminds us that we should all keep in mind when we're talking about it.
She basically said that it most likely isn't malicious, or it's happening on a subconscious level, but it is concerning that people feel such liberty to kind of turn to their TikTok accounts and post and talk so openly about the case as if they were gossiping to friends about it. But their gossip is now being blasted to millions of people and influencing millions of people's opinions before we even know what's going on or where the next lead or update can take us.
And sometimes TikTokers will correct the information that they have in a follow-up TikTok, but they won't always delete the original one. So she pointed out how problematic that is because the original one has garnered a lot of views and now we are all beholden to views and these statistics for value online. And so it's a really kind of tragic formula that doesn't prioritize trying to get the right information out there to get closer to figuring out what happened to Gabby.