Of course this is not true and of course social media programs like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, etc. are marvelous communication tools, and of course they are probably not going anywhere anytime soon.
But once again I have been reminded just how careless, consequence-less and dangerous social media can be.
If you live in the Platte City area you may have heard a rumor the last week or so about an attempted child abduction from a local grocery store. And if you dialed up Facebook, you may have seen this post:
“I just read this on a friends page, I find it appalling that the (local store) manager allowed this convicted sex offender and predator to walk out of the store after being caught red handed attempting to kidnap a small boy.” Wow — sounds like a concerned community member trying to warn her neighbors of a possible sexual predator on the loose in the community, right?
Except for one thing — there’s not one bit of truth in the entire statement.
I know this because I spoke with the Platte City Police Department about the matter a few times. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
But the fact that there was no truth to the allegations made on Facebook did not seem to deter some folks from spreading the rumor. I heard about it a few times around town last week. The PCPD took several calls about it and the owner of the local grocery store in question also had to take calls and defend his business.
This is a definition of the careless and irresponsible way that a lot of folks abuse social media. Without checking on facts, they spread untruths and rumors that get touched by so many online hands that they soon take on a life of their own.
Especially damning is the false assertion that an employee of the store did nothing while an alleged convicted sex offender tried to pluck a young child from a carrier on a grocery cart. Talk about being tried in the court of public opinion.
Back to what the PCPD says really happened.
A woman made a report to the PCPD about an alleged incident at the store Aug. 16. She said a man she did not know talked to her and made gestures toward her young children while she was shopping.
PCPD officials said they reviewed a videotape of the incident taken at the customer service desk of the store and found no evidence that any attempted abduction had taken place. When they interviewed the woman who had made the initial report, she admitted that the man never tried to remove her child from the cart. She also said that she believed a friend of her mother’s made the initial post on Facebook that caused some posters to react like the one I quoted earlier in this column.
Look, in this day and age, we should all be vigilant and I don’t blame a young mother for getting an uneasy feeling when a stranger starts paying too much attention to her kids. But that doesn’t mean we should make matters worse by rushing to Facebook to condemn innocent folks for an incident that never happened.
The problem inherent with that is that many people see something on social media and mistake it for real news. It’s not. Many times it’s nothing more than gossip, assumptions, allegations and downright lies.
We should all stop and think before we rush to social media to post about whatever it is we feel the need to vent about.
Sounds like common sense, right?
Sadly, incidents like the one I just talked about are proof that when it comes to social media, common sense does not apply.
Thanks for reading.