Last week, a story about two strangers getting to know each other on a plane was dubbed “the greatest love story ever told on social media,” but the tide quickly turned, and now it has people questioning whether our use of social media is making us forget common decency.
The story started on a flight from New York to Dallas when a woman named Rosey Blair asked another woman if she could switch seats with her so Blair could sit with her boyfriend. When the woman agreed, Blair joked that maybe the woman’s new seat partner, later dubbed “Plane Bae,” would turn out to be the love of her life, but the joke didn’t end there. Blair began to live post on Instagram and Twitter as the two strangers interacted on the flight. She framed the story as if they had a budding romance.
Hundreds of thousands of twitter users followed along with Blair’s more than 50-tweet thread and soaked up every word — and photo. Blair began to document everything the pair did, from what they talked about, to when their elbows touched, to when they went to the bathroom.
— BBC Trending (@BBCtrending) July 4, 2018
Romantics even started basically demanding that the pair get together.
— Indrahmil ♡ (@IndrahGonzalez) July 4, 2018
— Ranta (@RanaaSays) July 4, 2018
But then … people started feeling uneasy. Many who originally saw Blair’s posts as a cute Internet love story got a social media hangover and now view it as an invasion of privacy, just for the sake of going viral.
This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that someone has inadvertently gone viral without their immediate knowledge. Take Alex from Target, the Target worker who went viral in 2015 after a Twitter user posted a photo of him, or Dani Mathers, the former Playboy model who was sentenced to three years’ probation after posting Snapchat photos of a naked 71-year-old woman in an LA Fitness locker room.
So the #PlaneBae story is really just the latest incident to spark soul searching about privacy on social media. The woman who was involved allegedly deleted her social media accounts (there are even reports that she got harassed too), while the man, Euan Holden, has embraced the attention and conducted TV interviews about the encounter.
More than 250K people tuned into @roseybeeme's live-tweeting airplane rom-com, and this morning that story was on the @TODAYshow! It was great speaking to you, Rosey and @EuanHolden ✈️💓 https://t.co/tEn45Fa1Vt
— Jareen Imam 🔥 (@JareenAI) July 5, 2018
Then came the backlash, in the form of not only critical tweets but also articles like “#PlaneBae Proves Technology Has Turned Us All Into Stalkers and Glory Hounds.” All serving up food for thought about what happens when the internet’s need for happy content collides with actual human beings’ privacy.
So what do you think now? Was it a meet-cute tale that went viral because we’re all starved for a good story these days, or was it a gross bit of exploitation?
Soo I’m horribly ashamed/embarrassed for having fallen for the cute love story that’s been circulating recently with liking/commenting on the original thread. I corrected my wrongs by undoing the likes/RT’s/comments and reported Rosey (1/2)#planebae
— Pickman93 (@Pickman934) July 8, 2018
1. he didn’t ask the girl on the plane for consent
I encourage not just twitter, but anybody who is currently following roseybeeme to unfollow & report her because it’s the right thing to do.
— Pickman93 (@Pickman934) July 8, 2018
At first I thought that #PlaneBae story was cute, but it's actually pretty gross, and I just saw a video where the woman who started it is basically encouraging her followers to doxx the woman involved. Ugh.
— Monique Judge (@thejournalista) July 8, 2018
— Alex Gervasi (@AlexontheMic) July 6, 2018
Secretly recording people in public so you can exploit them later for content and viral fame is gross and everyone involved in the plane bae saga should be kicked off the internet except the poor woman who just wanted to be left alone.
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 6, 2018
— AM to DM by BuzzFeed News (@AM2DM) July 9, 2018
According to Vox writer Alex Abad-Santos, the big takeaway from this story is that we all should be more considerate of what we post and how it impacts others — and of what we “like” on social media, too. After all, we got here thanks to tens of thousands of likes and retweets, by people like you and me.