When your family becomes "fake news"
“I gotta show you something,” my sister said. It was a Facebook post that contained a series of boxes. One was a picture of a pick-up truck, another was text about the theft of the truck, and then there was a picture of my nephew and his friend. Stunned, I read and re-read the post, trying to comprehend what it was saying. The text in this post assumed the boys pictured were the ones who had stolen the pick-up truck.
Now fully bewildered, the only thing I knew to do was to call my brother and sister-in-law and get the story. My nephew and his friend were at the Rail Yards when they came across a cell phone. Thinking it would be funny to take a selfie on the phone, they did just that and then returned the phone to where they found it. Now, the owner of the stolen truck apparently had the cellphone in the vehicle when it was taken. Using GSP, they tracked the phone and saw the selfie of the boys. Assuming the boys were the thieves, they posted the picture on Facebook, hoping someone could identify them.
The post was shared hundreds of times. Friends and co-workers who had seen the post called my in-laws to report this shocking revelation. When my in-laws learned about all of this, they called the police, who then interviewed the boys, collected their statement, and then went on their way. Life goes on, right?
Unfortunately, when posts are shared over and over on social media, they don’t die as quickly as you might think. Honestly, the reputations of these families are now in the hands of the very unforgiving, quick to find blame, public. These two high school boys have had their images associated with a terrible crime and most who saw the post don’t know anything about this horrendous misunderstanding.
Now, what the boys did was foolish, to be sure. I suppose a lesson learned is, when you see a valuable object on the ground (phone or otherwise) leave it well enough alone. But for the grace of God, the same type of situation might have happened to me a few months ago when I found a wallet while out on a walk. I took it home to see if I could determine the owner. Thankfully, I was able to return it, but had someone snapped a photo of me taking the wallet and walking away, I would have been quickly labeled villainous by an army of social media consumers.
When you or your family become the targets of “fake news”, your view point on what you see online is definitely impacted. No longer will I take posts at face value, and certainly, if I think it’s something that needs to be shared, I need to be diligent to go to the original source to learn all that I can before jumping on the bandwagon. I pray the couple that had their vehicle stolen will be able to recover it.
I pray too that the damage done by false accusations to my nephew, his friend and their families will fall by the wayside. And I certainly hope this account might help provide some perspective for all of us who consume “news” without considering origin and motivation.