Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Dark Side of May 4th

Last Monday, Star Wars lovers among us got a chuckle with the date, "MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU." Unfortunately, that joke cost a man and woman dearly.

It started when the man was walking through a shopping center in Melbourne, Australia. He saw a Darth Vader cut-out poster that said, "MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU." Thinking of his children who were Star Wars fans, he decided to take his first selfie in front of the poster, and send it to them.

While he was standing there getting his phone ready, he noticed a couple of children walking up to the poster. He told them if they wanted to take a photo there, he would only be a minute. Their mother noticed this stranger talking to her children, took his photo, and posted the following on Facebook:

"Ok people, take a look at this creep. Today at Knox he approached my children when they were sitting at the frozen movie in the children's clothing section, he said "hey kids" they looked up and he took a photo, then he said I'm sending this to a 16 yr old. I immediately removed the kids from that area and took them to security at the front so I then followed them and took his picture and he took off. Centre management were straight onto and so are the police, hopefully he is caught. Police said if he is a registered sex offender he will be charged, this happened at Knox, be safe with your kids"

That's when social media did its thing. Faster than wildfire, her post was shared more than 20,000 times, and the innocent man started getting nasty phone calls during a meeting at work. His co-workers noticed his picture was being shared on Facebook. He went straight to police, and they cleared his name. They contacted the mother who, with deep humiliation and embarrassment, quickly corrected her post. Soon she found herself in the innocent dad's shoes -- receiving death threats over social media for her "stupid mistake."

Both this father and this mother are urging people not to spread stories over social media that have not been investigated by police, or reported by a reputable news agency that verifies facts before publishing stories.

It's easy to get hurt and offended by things other people do or say (or leave undone or unsaid.) It's tempting to vent through the social media world. But what if we simply misunderstood or misjudged the other person's motives, without knowing what was going on in their minds?

God gave us the Eighth Commandment to protect each other's reputations so we would give the person the benefit of the doubt first or speak directly with the other person first before letting rumors fly. Doing this keeps the matter between you and him/her alone.

As the saying goes, a reputation is easily ruined, and difficult to repair.

It's good to remember to use social media the same way we use every other word we speak: with special care and attention, even when we're deciding whether to "like" or share something we received from someone else.

Have you seen, or been the victim of, this kind of social media misunderstanding? Is there something you can convey to Men's NetWork readers that might give them a "heads-up" on how social media can go seriously wrong?

If so, you can click here to give us your perspective.

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