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Please Stop With the “If I Go Missing” Folders

Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home. He is reading a folder and looking confused

Interest in true crime has grown exponentially in recent times, and with it comes a growing concern about that interest turning into an obsession. There are even individuals who have labeled themselves “true crime junkies” to showcase their devotion to true crime. Of course, therein already lies a concern of whether it is appropriate, respectful, or even healthy to be so enthusiastic about crime cases that have impacted real-life victims. Many have come to see true crime as a form of entertainment or a genre, rather than media which depicts and explores real-life tragedies.

This detachment from the reality of crime has led many to fetishize and romanticize it. It has gotten to the point where true crime enthusiasts are “fanning” out and claiming to be in love with notorious killers like Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. TV and film studios, books, and podcasts are producing works like Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile that are being eaten up by viewers with little respect for the victims and families of the victims. There is also the problem of true crime enthusiasts trying to solve open homicide cases solely through online sleuthing, and going as far as to publicly accuse innocent people of being murderers.

Now true crime fans are taking their obsession to another level with the creation of “if I go missing” folders. In some cases, the idea of such a folder isn’t actually a bad idea. Especially for victims of abuse, stalking, or harassment, an “if I go missing” folder that is highly secured and includes essentials could be useful for police. However, some true crime fans seem to be creating these folders because they are fantasizing about actually going missing. They are compiling sensitive information with questionable security measures and going so far as to pluck out their own hair to put in their binders.

These “if I go missing” folders are getting out of hand

Users are taking to TikTok to show themselves compiling “if I go missing” folders to prove their true crime fandom. TikTok user @savor.it.all sparked concern when they shared a video of themselves plucking out their hair to put in a folder. They were concerned that they didn’t have enough hair in the binder, so they plucked 20 more strands—with the follicle attached—to put in their binder.

Other users quickly pointed out that it was concerning to see true crime fans, who have no reason to believe they may go missing, preparing for their kidnapping or murder. The fact that these fans are publicly sharing their folders in excitement also seems to indicate that they’re fantasizing about being the victim of a violent crime. One user’s parody brilliantly points out the fact that a lot of these true crime fans probably aren’t creating anything that will be remotely useful to police if they actually go missing.

@danhentschel

TRUE CRIME safety: What to put in your “IF I GO MISSING” Binder! #truecrime #crime #safety #safetytips

♬ original sound – Daniel Hentschel

TikTok user @danhentschel poked fun at true crime fans and their folders with his own “if I go missing” folder, written in marker. In it, he included a Dunkin Donuts gift card, a thin blue line flag to get the cops on his side, pictures of himself, random Facebook statuses, and leg hairs for DNA. While it was a parody, some of these true crime fans’ folders are probably just as useless, with individuals including their top choices for their “missing” poster picture and 20 strands of hair. Some users also go overboard, stuffing their folders with everything imaginable, including meticulously writing down the names and contact info for all of their friends, family members, and exes, all of their upcoming plans, keys, multiple DNA samples, and anything else they can scrounge up.

Do you actually need an “if I go missing” folder?

A woman looking annoyed and somewhat confused while sitting at a table with an open laptop
(Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels)

The truth is, the vast majority of people don’t need an “if I go missing” folder, and certainly shouldn’t create one in hopes of actually going missing. There’s a larger chance of these folders being misused and backfiring than actually helping to crack a crime case. What’s really concerning is all of these TikTok users publicly advertising that they have a loose binder with every piece of sensitive, personal information they’ve ever gathered in their whole life sitting in their homes. People can purchase unsecured binders online for about $60, though it’s unlikely that any of them offer extra security measures, and many seem to treat it like a fun craft project.

Having an unsecured book filled to the brim with passwords, security codes, keys to one’s home, fingerprints, IDs, and upcoming plans could prove very dangerous in the wrong hands, and could be used for identity theft or worse. Some have pointed out that these “if I go missing” folders could easily turn into “how to go missing” folders.

Ultimately, the concept of an “if I go missing” folder isn’t necessarily wrong. Time is crucial in missing person cases and having a way for police to easily access crucial information—identifying physical characteristics, social media activity, and bank activity—could be useful. However, one really needs to consider the necessity of having such a binder and how to securely store it.

Usually, you don’t actually need a folder labeled “if I go missing.” Instead, a file with a few personal documents and backup IDs in a secure location will suffice. Having an encrypted file on one’s computer with passwords and login info also isn’t a bad idea. However, most people creating these files have no reason to believe that they’ll ever go missing.

Being safe and having some files secured in case of an emergency is definitely alright. What’s not alright is taking your safety for granted and obsessively creating sensitive “if I go missing” binders to show off on TikTok while fantasizing about your kidnapping or murder.

(featured image: Sony)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.