LWL | Analyzing Teenagers Fascination with Criminal Character's Behavior through Social Networks and Fictional Narrative

By Génesis Gómez


Over the years, social networks have increased a great globalization around the world. This has led to more information being disseminated and reaching more people. In society what is talked about most is crimes. Especially people who commit these acts. How their behaviors and actions have fascinated a specific audience, this being teenagers. Just as social networks have been a medium, literature, specifically fictional narrative, is not far behind. Which is the basis of real crime stories to be illustrated. Teenagers are fascinated by criminal characters, behaviors and actions due to social networks increasing in popularity, the globalization and misinformation it has. As well, fictional narrative is based on real stories which encompass how we see criminals and crimes they commit, creating teens to change their perspective on what is good or bad. 

Keywords: Social Network, Globalization, Fictional Narrative, Teenagers, disseminated 


The study in how criminal characters' behaviors and actions have fascinated in psychological manners in adolescents nowadays is due to globalization of the use of social networks and even fictional narratives. This causes them to be drawn to a dangerous flame, captivated by its glow without realizing the harm it can cause. This tendency didn't start recently, it comes from many years ago. For example, between 1925 and 1930, the Prohibition Era began in the United States. At this time criminal figures such as Al Capone began to emerge. He was a gangster and businessman. When he was arrested, many stories began to come out about his glamorous life, which captured the public eye, who were especially adolescents. So why do teenagers feel fascinated by behaviors and actions of Criminal Characters in fictional narratives and in social networks, while there are other teenagers who feel horror and discomfort about it. Recently, psychologists have realized what makes a criminal character so fascinating is their great popularity. ¨The rise of true crime series and documentaries has brought these criminals into focus, mainly on big platforms such as Netflix¨ as C magazine of California stated. Teenagers are fascinated by observing behavior and actions committed by these criminals. Since due to their growing popularity they have an effect on what they consume in their daily lives. The world has been globalized in many aspects. Any information can be misinformed and this causes great popularity among criminals for their acts and behaviors. Just as they gain popularity with this type of content, social networks can quickly spread false data or false information, create erroneous content, and exaggerate the commonness and depth of different behaviors and actions. ¨Albert Bandura developed a Social learning theory, which highlights how individuals learn their behaviors by observing others and the consequences of their actions (1977, p. 7).¨ This makes teenagers question their perspective on what is good or bad, the consequences it will imply and if their actions are suitable. Teenagers are fascinated by criminal characters, behaviors and actions due to social networks increasing in popularity, the globalization and misinformation it has. As well, fictional narrative is based on real stories which encompass how we see criminals and crimes they commit, creating teens to change their perspective on what is good or bad. Lastly, it is true humans are very curious to know the darkest aspects of humanity. Of course, social networks and fictional narrative have affected teens along the way. Cause them a change in their perspective, bad influences in their behaviors and every act committed has consequences sooner or later.

Literature Review 

In modern times, we see how young people (especially teenagers) currently spend a lot of time on social networks, which makes them subjects of interest for different service providers, being, to a certain extent, vulnerable subjects. According to Dr. Rossana Reguillo Cruz, it makes them instruments of consumption and among this type of content we find products full of violence. Social networks, being globalized media, offer a series of ideas to young people from all countries but subject to the cultural impact of each country. Just like these, they put them in contact with violence, since they exist in our society like the one is created in an imaginary way. Professor Omar Rincon and Jorge Bonilla, famous writers, contribute the idea in which there are two types of violence that usually takes place on social networks or on television, which are most present genres, being narrative genre (fictional narrative) and formats of television which are associated with entertainment. (Rincon & Bonilla, 1988, p. 6) 

According to Norwegian sociologist and mathematician Johan Galtung, violence is represented in a triangle made up of direct, structural and cultural violence. The study mainly focuses on the analysis of cultural violence. Cultural or symbolic violence is based on aspects of culture that can be used to justify direct or structural violence and thus become acceptable in society. (Galtung,1996; 2003). Galtung refers to the fact that culture is constant and remains basically unchanged for long periods, since it depends on the speed of cultural transformations (2016; 2003). In this case we refer to young people and how although consequences are not immediately noticeable, at some point they will detonate. They create these habits of fascination with behaviors and actions of criminals and crimes they committed. Discuss a little more depth about these aspects below and their impact on young people.

Social Networks Popularity, Globalization and Misinformation 

Since the increase of social networks popularity this now has influenced several societal issues, one of them being crimes. When referring to social networks not only refers to most populars like Instagram, Tik Tok or even Facebook but also to news like CNN, big platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, etc. This has been going on for a long time, since the rise of the Internet in the 1990s. Discussion forums and true crime websites began to emerge. Allowing enthusiasts from around the world to discuss famous and unknown criminals. The growth in the production of documentaries and true crime series, such as "Making a Murderer" (2015) and "Mindhunter" (2017), captured global attention and led to massive discussions on social media. In 2023, the popularity of criminals in social networks has increased significantly. 

A propensity of notable documentaries and true crime series. This sometimes makes  criminals look glamorous and notable. As shown in the series ¨Dahmer¨ stream on Netflix, past september, generating debates online as C magazine affirmed. Series caused a lot of controversy because many people began to defend criminal behavior and actions. The actor who performed the role was attractive, they justify his actions. He committed atrocities, killing 17 people, all of whom were minors. We know this type of series is only to inform us about what types of people really exist in the world and we should not be careless. This also influences a lot, because the majority of the audience watching this type of programs are teenagers. Moreover, news can cause people to be misinformed. Focusing on people who report criminal cases incorrectly spreading false testimonies of victims and causing much harm. This can also happen with famous YouTube influencers who are dedicated to informing others. For example Dinosaur Vlogs is a famous YouTube channel that is based on reporting about famous criminals and serial killers, their actions, facts and stories. It is really interesting to inform yourself but everything also has a limit. If we fill ourselves with wrong information, later it will be difficult to believe what is true. Especially, if it is for a young audience, such as teenagers, this could cause great 

psychological damage. If they themselves, for example, try to do justice and the news they hear are false. It will cause them a lot of damage. Our source of information and knowledge is the internet and it is necessary to know how to differentiate between good and bad reliable sources. Fictional Narrative Real Story Cases 

Nowadays there are more real case stories which are used to create fictional stories. A very recognized story writer called Margot Harrison talked in an interview about her recent book, published in 2023, that went viral. She mainly focused her writings in real true crime stories. Her book is called "Only She Came Back" the book was inspired by a real crime which happened in 2021, murder of Gabby Petito. The interviewer asked her a really interesting question, which was, society's fascination about true crime has continuously grown and what effects continue drawing people's attention to it? She answers the following "We usually tend to be fascinated with things and people who live outside the rules our society implies, criminals and murderers fit very well in this. When true crimes try to glamorize these actions it can be very uncomfortable " Margot Harrison stated. True crime has always inspired fiction but it's never just a fictional way in which we can embroider facts that have occurred. It is a way in which shocking events make us look at human life in different ways and new stories are created and thus writers can be inspired. For example, in 2021 in Gawker´s essay, author Emma Berquist explained that “True Crime Is Rotting Our Brains (2021).” Giving it understanding it clogs our mind and causes conflicts in people's principles and values. Of course, this is not always the case. Famous writers of this genre have created great reputations and increased their stories' popularity. For example, Truman Capote (¨In Cold Blood¨ 1966), Erick Larsson (¨The Devil in the White City¨ 2003) and so many more. As Dr. Andrea Roth stated ¨true crimes have made people think if they are either good or bad, or they are born this way, and they are only bad seeds it is just a matter of finding who they are. This can affect their trust in people and cause them distrust.¨ Consequently, this has greatly influenced people, especially teenagers, who are the most interested in these topics.  In developing trust issues, questioning their personality and who they are, distrusting others and their own actions. 

Teenagers Fascination vs Teenagers discomfort 

There are many factors why some teenagers are fascinated by this type of content while others feel discomfort and fear. This can be attributed to many social, environmental and psychological factors. Psychological factors can be the seeking of curiosity because teenagers are always looking for ways to feel stimulus for a desire of excitement. Have a feeling of empathy towards the criminal´s background story, his life and everything they went through. Social Factors can be their peer influence and social network effect. Peer influence refers to the type of people they are around, since they are interested in the topic, both will find it interesting. Social networks have been a key factor for almost everything nowadays. Due to its great globalization and increase in popularity for these criminal actions. Indeed, Environmental Factors also have a lot to do. Family environment is very important, it is true what we learn at home is what we reflect to the world. That is why the first education begins at home. What happens if there is no good education and the family environment is quite violent and dangerous? It begins to be normalized. Children don't differentiate what's good or bad and leads to bigger consequences that sooner or later arrive. 

Teenagers who feel discomfort by observing this type of content often feel a great empathy from the victim's side and understand the feeling the family is going through. They feel more impotence and resentment towards criminals. Recent studies have proven higher levels of empathy are associated with greater emotional reactions of others distress, this can lead to discomfort for encountering a criminal behavior. Teenagers also suffer from anxiety some more than others. Usually they are very sensitive especially to this type of content they are exposed to. They don't know how to handle it and it usually causes them discomfort. As a result, teenagers can react in different ways when dealing with this topic. 


Ultimately, although many reasons are suggested, we can conclude that teenagers being stimulated and learning negative things can have great consequences. Since their fascination with criminal characters, their behaviors and actions are due to several factors. One of the main ones is the use of social networks, globalization and misinformation. Literature is not far behind and how real cases have inspired stories. Creates the genre of true crime for fictional narrative. Also the contrast in which some teenagers feel fascination while others feel discomfort. This highlights the help our youth needs the guidance and support by necessities established.


Cheng, Y. (2023). The Impact of Social Media on Deviance and Crime. Journal of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, 22, 873–877. https://doi.org/10.54097/ehss.v22i.14555 Oldfield, K., & Oldfield, K. (2023, November 20). Margot Harrison on true crime and her new YA thriller, Only She Came Back. United by Pop. 

https://www.unitedbypop.com/books/young-adult-books/margot-harrison-on-true-crime-a nd-her-new-ya-thriller-only-she-came-back/ 

Harrison, M. (2023, November 16). True crime as inspiration for fiction: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Writer’s Digest

https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/true-crime-as-inspiration-for-fiction-th e-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly 

Chen, J. (2023, March 19). Idolized criminals. C Magazine. 


Development, P., & Development, P. (2022, May 24). True Crime Is Rotting Your Brain ft. Emma Berquist | Ten Thousand Posts. PodBean. 

https://tenthousandposts.podbean.com/e/true-crime-is-rotting-your-brain-ft-emma-berquis t/ 

Teens. (n.d.). https://www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/teens 

The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-7-things-to-know Mauro, A. (2024, June 13). Understanding the teenage brain: Compassion for Curiosity. AMCounseling. https://amandamaurocounseling.com/compassion-for-curiosity/

Vista de Jóvenes, violencia y medios. Una mirada a las pantallas argentinas. (n.d.). https://perio.unlp.edu.ar/ojs/index.php/question/article/view/1755/1465 

Puente Guerrero, P. (2021). Tesis doctoral. In Invisibles E Invisibilizadas. La Especial Vulnerabilidad De Las Personas En Situación De Sinhogarismo Frente a La Violencia. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from 

https://www.educacion.gob.es/teseo/imprimirFicheroTesis.do?idFichero=j2ZaeJfmpdI%3 D 

Ling, I. (n.d.). Murdering the true crime narrative. Scot Scoop News.