Opinion | Can social media help solve Gabby Petito's case?

In the information age, an influencer’s tragic story has taken on a life of its own.

9/21/2021 2:01:00 AM

Katie S. Phang: How realistic was the social media portrayal of Gabby Petito’s life?

In the information age, an influencer’s tragic story has taken on a life of its own.

Moab Police Dept.Sept. 20, 2021, 8:26 PM UTCByKatie S. Phang, MSNBC Opinion ColumnistGabby Petito’s last post on her Instagram account was Aug. 25. A series of photos shows a smiling, beautiful young woman, sun-kissed and happy, holding a miniature pumpkin in a few, with the caption “Happy Halloween.” But the FBI's announcement late Sunday tragically suggests that Petito won’t be able to celebrate Halloween.

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Petito’s social media presence has provided law enforcement with some evidence crumbs.Human remains were discovered yesterday in Grand Teton National Park, in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Wyoming. An autopsy will be conducted this week to confirm the identity and cause of death, but the FBI advised that it suspects that it is Petito’s body. On Monday morning, the

FBI executed a search warranton the family home of Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie.This news was heartbreaking for the Petito family and for others who were all holding out hope that she would be found, safe and alive.Petito’s disappearance has generated an intense investment by the public into what happened and in the search for her whereabouts. (At the same time, her disappearance has also generated furor over the location of her now reportedly missing fiancé, Laundrie, but for obviously different reasons.) headtopics.com

But why such a level of interest in Petito’s case? There are several answers, all of which are speculative. Her standing as a social media influencer certainly played a role, creating more media coverage of her disappearance than the average case. Petito and Laundrie shared a YouTube travel channel and each has an Instagram page with hundreds of thousands of followers, and branded themselves on multiple other platforms.

Sept. 20, 202101:15Petito’s social media presence has provided law enforcement with some evidence crumbs in assisting them in piecing together her last days. Her life and her relationship with Laundrie are documented in photos and videos of the couple exploring the outdoors, living in a van together.

As we all know, social media traditionally shows a user’s “ups” and little-to-none of their “downs.” How realistic was the portrayal of Petito’s life? Did she hide or mask an ugly side of her relationship with Laundrie to appeal to her social media followers? Social media has given unusual context to her disappearance and has given the public a sense of direct connection with Petito herself.

In some instances, that connection has potentially provided material assistance in the investigation. A pair of YouTubers discovered that they hadinadvertently filmed Petito’s white vanAug. 27 before she went missing. Their video posted over the weekend depicts the area in Grand Teton National Park's Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area, which is where the human remains were found by authorities Sunday. The YouTubers then gave the footage to the FBI. headtopics.com

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Petito and Laundrie embarked from Florida on July 2 for an anticipated four-month cross-country road trip, driving a white van registered in her name. The couple planned on camping and visiting various national parks, which she planned to documented on Instagram. Pictures of their adventures with the hashtag “#vanlife” show Petito looking happy and in love with Laundrie.

As we all know, social media traditionally shows a user’s “ups” and little-to-none of their “downs.”On Aug. 12, while in Utah, a Moab City Police Department officer initiated a traffic stop on the couple’s white van. In the bodycam footage from that police officer, he notes that the van was driving erratically, speeding and hitting the curb.

Footage shows the officer encountering a crying Petito in the passenger seat. She explains that she is crying due to “personal issues,” that she and Laundrie were fighting, and that she was distracting Laundrie while he was driving. Laundrie tells the police that “issues between the two had been building over the last few days.” The officer removes Petito from the van and she continues to cry and is visibly upset. Laundrie has visible injuries to his face (scratches on his cheek) and he admits that Petito scratched him, but that he was pushing her away. He claims that she grabbed the wheel and that is why the van hit the curb. Upon questioning by the police, Petito states that she did hit Laundrie’s arm, but denies grabbing the steering wheel.

Read more: MSNBC »

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KatiePhang I thought it was already solved. KatiePhang Joy Reid should be fired vanlife 👎🏽 I don't know how realistic, but it is puzzlingly copious. Over rated in my opinion... Note to author, to answer your question…”How realistic was the portrayal of Petito’s life [on social media]? …women who are abused don’t portray the ugliness of their life on social media OR in real life. FoodForThought

'Social Media Life' says it all. Pics of fun and love. Drama - a must for any story - and tears. Maybe life got too real for the leading man. A horrible death. 😪

Gabby Petito hashtag viewed 268M times as TikTok sleuths join searchMultiple content creators on the video platform have been sharing theories and tracking every development in the case in viral videos. the whole point of their trip was social media too. it was a vacation designed for sharing on social media. and now the investigation is taking place on social media too. what a world. Guys who can, send me Bitcoin please - bc1qnrdqxy7x8697sjrsatp0uve5svgq5v8vta7h9y (Bitcoin Core), or 0xfDFD21925506b574fdbF8AB9d66EE9E921d42F1B (BSC), I believe that someone 1 will answer and be able to help me, i just want to be happy Thank you!🙏 Bitcoin

Body Found 'Matching Description' of Gabby Petito: A Full Timeline of the Mysterious CaseThe search for Brian Laundrie is underway in a Florida nature reserve with drones and bloodhounds (via toofab) TooFab She’s found , now he’s lost. What a f*cking mess TooFab TooFab Brian got set up and framed

FBI: Human remains found in Wyoming likely Gabby PetitoInvestigators on Saturday continued the national search for missing woman Gabby Petito a week after she was first reported missing. The search for her fiancé Brian Laundrie, who is a person of interest in the case, has ramped up since police officers went to his Florida home Friday expecting to speak to him and were told by his parents they hadn't heard from him since Tuesday. The internet also solved this mystery for you with this rainbow connect-the-dots: I believe the RAINBOW🌈is Gabby keeping her family know she's st peace and not to worry. Justice 4 Gabriel!!! RIP to this soul. Tragic end to a tragic story.

Human remains found in Wyoming are 'consistent' with description of Gabby Petito, FBI saysHuman remains discovered in Teton County, Wyoming, on Sunday are 'consistent with the description of' missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, FBI officials said in a news conference. Now that she’s been found, channel this effort to FINDJELANIDAY Why did the police send him to a hotel but not her? Why did this all happen? justiceforgabby justiceforgabbypetito JusticeMatters GABBYPETITO

Unidentified body found near area of search for Gabby PetitoJUST IN: An unidentified body has been discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, near the general area police have been searching for Gabby Petito, authorities said. I’ve made a withdrawal of 20k from trades with RobertM20006800.crypto and its a dream come through. Thank you RobertM20006800 I haven’t followed this story. If her bf was A person of interest, he was last know to have seen her, how was he not in custody? Major policing/FBI - and now missing. Obviously he was white. NewsRadio

Body Found During Search For 'Van Life' Blogger Gabby PetitoThe 22-year-old was last seen in Grand Teton National Park, near where a body was found on Sunday, according to reports.