We Lost Petito … We Also Lost Our Decency

Aidan Sun, Editor-In-Chief

Catching a whiff of potential virality, social media was taken by storm in a seemingly undying craze after the disappearance and murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito. The frenzy has for months been closely tracking the murder’s investigation and subsequent search for her fiance and accused killer, Brian Laundrie, with corporate interests and amateur sleuths alike descending on quiet North Port, Fla. to get a taste of the disease that turns tragedy into clicks, likes and follows.

Relentless harassment of the Laundrie family and Brian-look-alikes seem to be a primary symptom. Teenage girls, inspired by their favorite true-crime series, have been a permanent fixture at the Laundrie residence. They film Laundrie’s father mowing the lawn or his mother gardening in the yard and post their videos on Snapchat stories and TikToks, raking in thousands of swipe-ups and likes. Drops on Twitter (“Potential Laundrie sighting, location TBD ”), which endanger regular people with an unfortunate likeness, were retweeted like no tomorrow.

Apparently, content and relevancy must be pursued relentlessly at the expense of rational thought and human dignity. 

Further fueling this fall from decency, theories that Laundrie faked texts from Petito, that Laundrie was hiding underneath a backyard flower bed or that the Petito case is a massive distraction from the Biden presidency have become so bizarre and plain stupid that they’ve attracted the attention of QAnon believers. 

The nonsensical obsession hasn’t stopped since the discovery of Laundrie’s body on Oct. 20 either. Unsatisfied with the anticlimactic nature of the discovery of his remains and devastated at the possibility of falling off the FYP, many commentators grabbed the spotlight and put it back on themselves by expressing their unfound “disbelief.”

“I am a multiple time convicted [felon] . . . this is my theory,” one TikToker began in a video with 5.3 million views. Apparently, prior misdemeanors make you a CSI because she then proceeded by claiming the FBI was “super sus” for not finding the body earlier using “drones and all of this technology.”

I can already hear the ridicule of some pious Tucker Carlson monologue.

I suppose the theorists got something right — it has all been a major distraction. Hundreds of thousands of people go missing each year, many of whom are never found. The amount of disproportionate attention (i.e. more algorithm-feeding misinformation) the Petito case received did nothing but highlight how poisonous appetites for attention have become. 

Whether it’s TikTok creators over-analyzing grainy video of a drone flyby, or Twitter users calling to arms against the Laundrie family, or 8kun cyberwarriors conjuring their newest tie-back to Donald Trump, it’s increasingly ironic and sad how Petito, an aspiring feel-good content creator, became the subject of prolific toxicity through online click-baiting and wild conspiracy. To fill the internet with this filth is a mockery of those actually trying to solve the case and the family that deserves clarity, not to mention it’s outright disrespectful to the memory of Petito.