Georgina Guedes

Don’t participate in internet shaming

2016-08-25 09:37

Georgina Guedes

Last weekend, I visited a friend who was in the Milpark Hospital. Because I was there during visiting hours and on a weekend, even the overflow parking was pretty full, and it took me some time to find a space.

When I eventually did, my space was perpendicular to a Lexus that was occupying two bays between two pillars.

I know exactly the mentality of the driver – he self-importantly believes that his concern that his paint job might get chipped by the opening of another car door outweighs the inconvenience he has caused to anyone else who might need to park there. It is selfishness of the highest order.

I got out my cell phone and grabbed a snap of his car, in situ, with licence plate visible for all to see. But even as I did it, I knew that I wouldn’t resort to shaming him on social media because I just don’t know the whole story.

What if he’s bringing his mom in a wheelchair to visit someone in the hospital, and she needs the extra space to exit and enter the vehicle? What if he’s collecting someone who will be delivered to the car in a wheelchair? What if he brought in his sick child to the hospital and parked in a panic to get her to a doctor?

While I think that all of these scenarios are highly unlikely, they are possible, and if I were the person who started a social media witch hunt when the driver was in genuine distress, I’d feel horrible.

The principal and the Darth Vader guy

This week, I read about a retired Australian school principal who ran two seaside motels, who was driven out of business and beaten up after a man posted on Facebook that he was a paedophile. The person who made the defamatory post was acting on information he had been told by others, but had no basis in fact. Other people then beat up the ex-principal.

The Facebook poster was fined AU$150 000.

A similar story unfolded last year after a father took a selfie for his children in front of a Darth Vader cut-out, and let some nearby kids know he’d be done in a minute. The children’s mother who saw the exchange snapped his photo and posted it on Facebook, branding him a creep, and the post spread like wildfire.

This is the reason that I don’t share these “shaming” posts. You never know the true story behind a single photo, and the accused does not have the opportunity to speak out in their own defence.

The dog-kicking domestic worker

And as a final anecdote, last week a friend of mine shared a photo of a domestic worker sitting in a park with a dog on a leash, chatting to a friend. The story underneath the photo stated that the domestic worker had repeatedly kicked other dogs whenever they came near to her. The post was an attempt to find out the woman’s name and employer so that she could get her fired.

All that the photo showed were two women sitting on a bench. And yet friends and friends of friends shared the photo with the intention of helping to put the domestic worker out of a job.

Now, for all we know, this woman could have been an animal abuser of the worst sort. She could have slaughtered kittens for fun on the weekend. But the picture didn’t show that.

“What about the woman taking the photo?” you ask. “Surely she’s not lying?”

Well, you’d think, but the world is full of strange people – even people you think you know. The woman taking the photograph could have taken offence when the woman on the bench nudged her yapping dog out of the way with her foot. We’ll never know.

What I do know is that I won’t participate in a mission to track someone down and get them fired when I haven’t heard their side of the story and certainly haven’t seen evidence to support their accuser’s claims.

It’s worth bearing in mind. No matter how strongly you feel about paedophilia or animal abuse or people who park like dicks, don’t blindly champion your cause at the expense of someone who may very well be innocent.

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