Stop me if you’ve heard this one before : misunderstanding leads to a guy being falsely accused of something, his picture gets spread all over social media, and his life is ruined.
Chances are you’ve heard it several times. There was the guy in British Columbia that forgot his glasses and was holding his phone at arm’s length to try and read something. Several girls thought he was taking their picture, snapped his, and shared it all over the internet with warnings about the town pervert.
There was the guy in Melbourne that stopped to take a selfie with a Darth Vader cutout in Target and was accused of the same, a Frozen display and several young girls somewhere in the vicinity. Both men spending months subjected to harassment and death threats while trying to clear their names and reputations.
Add to that list a Lakeland, Florida man who’s name, picture, phone number, place of employment, and family have been going viral this week, warnings made to watch out for him and to keep him away from children all over the internet.
His crime was to pick up a two year old girl, lost and upset in the crowd of a busy sports complex, calm her down, and begin asking people in the vicinity if anybody knew who her parent’s were. Before finding them however, the girl’s father and two of his buddies found them. Besides having his name and reputation smeared to the point where he moved his family into hiding, the Good Samaritan, a father himself, got a tooth knocked out, his face split open, and a half dozen punches to the head for his trouble.
The girl’s family and friends, originators of not only the physical assault but the online one, are not only ungrateful but unrepentant, still convinced there was foul play intended despite the overwhelming number of witnesses that dispute that claim. As much as I can relate to their original panic and join everybody else that is happy the girl was returned to them unharmed, I have issue with their claim that this end result is “all that really matters.”
Its not all that matters. The man’s face and reputation matter. The continual sharing of things seen on-line with no effort put into determining the truth matters. The fact that this would have never happened if it had been a woman helping the little girl matters. The insane idea that any man talking to a little girl he doesn’t know must have nefarious purposes matters. The fear that next time it might be my little girl that goes un-helped because male bystanders are afraid to get involved matters to me quite a bit.
We already feel it. A little girl asks for a push on the swing or a lift up a ladder at the park and we freeze, looking around frantically for the kid’s parents. My daughter is old enough to not really care all that much where I am at the park, but every so often I make sure to talk to her, not to reassure her, but to make sure others are aware that I have a child present.
I’ve said before that parenting is a terrifying experience, the world a very scary place. Vigilance is necessary.
Paranoia is not. I will do everything in my power to make sure that I am there every time that my little girl needs me, but I know that for all my good intentions this may not always be the case. If she is ever lost, scared or hurt, please guys. Help her.