By: Olivia Knafla
Whether you spend your time on Instagram, Tiktok, or YouTube, you’ve probably seen a thing or two about serial killers at some point. Whether it was a short video summarizing a case or a post to remember victims, there is lots of information on the internet about these killers that people naturally find terrifying, heartbreaking, fascinating, or all three.
True crime is captivating for a number of reasons. With the tap of a screen, or click of a button, we can delve into spine-chilling words from the comfort of our own couch and return back to real life afterwards. We can learn about the situation without being thrown into the danger. On top of that, true crime can appeal to many interests from psychology, to criminal justice, to law. It’s easy to see the appeal for the genre because there is so much to be learned from it.
That being said, it makes sense that people find serial killers and the cases surrounding them so intriguing – but where should the line be drawn?
I believe the line lies between two words: interest and romanticization.
The illustrate my point, consider the two following situations:
- A person spends some time learning about what a serial killer did, how they were caught, ect., because they find it interesting to research and learn about.
- A person spends some time learning about a serial killer to then post online about how much they love said serial killer, whether as a joke or in seriousness.
Which situation feels strange or disturbing?
Most likely situation B. Why? Because the person from situation B is no longer interested in what happened or why, but only in the killer themselves, and for all the wrong reasons.
It may seem unrealistic for somebody to post about their fondness for a killer online, but it has happened more times than can be counted.
Even off-screen, killers in prison can receive up to hundreds of letters of fan mail weekly or even daily. And while online, such interactions may be less direct, they are certainly not invisible.
From people posting about how attractive Ted Bundy is to making fan accounts for Jeffrey Dahmer, it’s an understatement to say things have gotten out of hand. This was not the work of a couple internet trolls or people posting solely for attention (although I’m sure those people have some sort of involvement in these types of posts), but a large number of people.
For example, in January, of 2019, Netflix had to take to Twitter in response to people posting about how hot Ted Bundy was in the documentary: ‘Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’ and near the release of: ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile’ with the following statement:
All of this being said, it is no secret that Hollywood enjoys glamorizing killers and their relationships. Take the TV series ‘You’ for example. The show is centered around killer Joe Goldberg and his relationships with women who just seem to love him so much.
Rather than talk about, quite literally, anything else, social media flooded with posts about how attractive Goldberg was, creating a uniquely uncomfortable environment for actors and those affected by similar situations.
Possibly worse than all of this though, was in early 2020, when teenagers located the Instagram account of an alleged active killer in the east coast, named Peter Manfredonia, a 23-year-old student at the University of Connecticut. Authorities were attempting to locate him after he was suspected of murdering two people, assaulting one, and finally kidnapping another. However, this did not prevent his comments from being flooded with everything from compliments to people writing down their home addresses and phone numbers.
Below are some of the comments that were left under his photos.
It should be obvious that these responses are not normal nor acceptable, and there are several answers that go further in depth explaining why.
Firstly, to show appreciation to somebody who is a serial killer is wildly insensitive to the victims and their families. Walk a mile in the shoes of somebody who was tortured and killed and then consider leaving these comments or making such remarks.
If that is not enough, think of the further damage such remarks could cause. Of course, no person is the same, and killers all have different ways of thinking and unique minds. However, by directly inflating the ego of one of these people, especially those who are not yet incarcerated or dealt with legally, is irresponsible and foolish.
No person who willingly hurts or preys upon others deserves any sort of fanbase, and by giving it to them you are telling them that you approve of them and what they are doing. And make no mistake – there is no excuse for it.
So, one may ask: how are we to get people out of this mindset? How are we, as a society, going to stop showering the monsters who walk among us with love and appreciation?
While there may always be some who enjoy the attention or shocked laughs they receive for glorifying these folks, the best thing you can do is to not do it yourself. If you choose to interact with an individual who participates in such behaviors (either online or in person), explain to them that it is wrong and why. Only when we all value our lives and the experiences of others will we move forward from this. And that I hope we do.