Nicola Bulley TikTok – Latest Update: Police have found the body of Nicola Bulley, a 45-year-old woman who had been missing since the end of January in the small village of St Michael’s on Wrye, following a weeks-long search. However, what should have been a simple tragedy has turned into a frenzy of speculation and conspiracy theories.
Social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter have become filled with hundreds of thousands of impressions related to the case, with discussions ranging from detached to almost gleeful. Unfortunately, for some people, the death of a woman who leaves behind two young daughters has become a form of entertainment.
The popularity of true crime has given rise to many people recasting their intrusive interest in real-world violence as a form of citizen journalism, with social media providing a platform for “TikTok detectives,” “body language experts,” and psychics. However, the problem runs much deeper than just one genre. In a statement released by Bulley’s family, they condemned Sky News and ITV for contacting them immediately after they identified the body, accusing them of acting inappropriately to sell papers and increase their own profiles.
According to a BBC report by Marianna Spring, amateur social media sleuths have descended on St Michael’s, filming content and digging up woodland, and at one point even attempting to break into an abandoned house for a better shot of the river where Bulley went missing. This has reached such a fever pitch that the police had to issue a public dispersal notice, and local residents have had to resort to hiring private security firms.
On the internet, Bulley’s grieving friends have been called “crisis actors,” and conspiracy theories have been proliferating, with some suggesting that the disappearance was staged by the government. Her husband has been vilified and scrutinized for signs of guilt, and someone even hacked into his Pinterest account to upload explicit images. To make matters worse, the police released painfully intimate details about Bulley’s private struggles in response to all of this. It is a shameful episode that we must learn from.
The response to Nicola Bulley’s disappearance has been incredibly disturbing. From trolls being deliberately cruel to professional journalists invading the family’s privacy and amateur online detectives attempting to solve the case themselves, the situation has been a nightmare for those involved. Instead of showing compassion, many people seem to be actively hoping for the worst-case scenario, and will be disappointed if it turns out to be an accident, as it appears to be. This ghoulish response has led many to point the finger at the true crime genre, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, there is now a growing narrative that true crime is exploitative and reduces harrowing situations to mere “content”, fetishizing victims and trivializing the grief of their loved ones.
It is argued that true crime promotes a conservative and fearful worldview and ignores the structural causes of crime in favor of lurid sensationalism. The backlash against true crime is becoming a flourishing trend in itself, with recent novels examining the genre’s moral ambiguities and the uncomfortable implications of our obsession with consuming real-life violence as entertainment.
Cultural criticism of the genre has also been increasingly prominent. Some argue that true crime’s focus on young white women effaces the deaths of many other types of victims. Others suggest that the genre encourages unhealthy levels of paranoia and suspicion, particularly among women. The intrusion that victims and their families often experience in the aftermath of a crime can become a second violation. Some argue that the true crime backlash is due to misogyny, as it is predominantly consumed by women. However, this argument is hard to accept given the callous disregard for the lives and deaths of actual women that the genre seems to encourage.
While the backlash against true crime has gained momentum, it’s important to recognize that ethical concerns have plagued the genre for centuries. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which reconstructed a family’s murder in Kansas, is often regarded as the first true crime novel. Despite its literary success, Capote’s meddling in the investigation and invention of scenes and details blurs the line between fact and fiction. A similar case involves journalist Joe McGinniss, who was invited by accused murderer Jeffrey MacDonald to write a book about his case.
Despite concluding that MacDonald was guilty, McGinniss continued to portray himself as a friend and advocate for MacDonald’s innocence, resulting in a lawsuit for fraud and breach of contract. As author Janet Malcolm points out, this type of exploitation and dishonesty is not an isolated incident, but rather a recurring theme in journalism. While the ends may have justified the means in Capote’s case, such justifications do not hold up for poorly executed modern examples of true crime, such as Twitter threads and mediocre podcasts.
The ethical concerns surrounding true crime are not exclusive to the genre, and traditional media can be just as guilty of violating them. While amateur sleuths on social media may be criticized for compounding the trauma of grieving families, the British tabloids have a history of hacking voicemail and harassing victims’ families. In the case of Nicola Bulley, both the press and members of the public misquoted and vilified her friends and family. The incentive to sell more newspapers or boost one’s online following is fundamentally the same, and the public interest in grisly crimes has always existed. The internet has only democratized these impulses, allowing them to play out on a greater scale and threatening to replace the most cynical and cruel aspects of traditional media. While social media may be blamed for poisoning our brains, we must acknowledge that the moral high ground cannot be claimed by the tabloids or anyone else who invades the privacy of grieving families.