Smart Phone Bullying

As I was working the mall today, I noticed a very disturbing incident. A young girl was being pushed against the wall. Her Pandora bag fell out of her hand, and the box containing her purchase fell out of it. For a moment I thought a group of guys were going to harm her, so my immediate reaction was to step in to stop it, in spite of knowing I could get hurt in the process. Yet, I steadily crept up to the situation to find who I assumed to be a mall detective trying to cuff her. So I knew she must have shoplifted or something. She was hysterical, proclaiming her innocence, as all usually do, while her friend was trying to calm her down and telling her that she might not be going to jail. The detective eventually brought her into Helzberg, but I decided to stay, hoping I could contribute into calming her down by speaking soothing words. I don’t know if she had actually shoplifted or if there was simply suspicion that she had, but if it was just suspicion, he likely wanted to handcuff her because of how she was reacting.

In any case, a lot of us were trying to calm her down, because she wasn’t making things any better. I was trying to tell her it was going to be okay…because it will be okay, eventually, even though it won’t be in that moment. A lot of people began to come upon the scene, because, well, that’s human nature. We’re naturally curious by things we don’t often see. However, when I turned around, I saw a man videoing the incident, and I grew angry. I didn’t realize I had it in me, but I began yelling at him to stop videoing the incident, because what was happening was for no one’s entertainment. Of course he pulled out the trite argument that it was his right, and I told him it was, but the incident was for no one’s entertainment. Then a woman had the audacity to tell me that maybe she won’t shoplift ever again because of the video.

Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this statement? Who should you be angrier with? The impulsive young girl or the older man?

I can tell you. 30 years ago shoplifters didn’t need to be humiliated by having themselves strewn across the internet. 30 years ago they learned their lessons to not shoplift ever again without having to be humiliated by millions of people. 30 years ago they didn’t need to be subjected to cruel, nasty comments about their misdemeanors.

I am a very non-judgmental person. I don’t know if she shoplifted. If she did, it was very foolish and impulsive of her. People need to think before they commit such actions. This is why our Creator gave us the ability to reason. At the same time, videoing this girl’s behavior is pure barbarism and cruelty. This video won’t teach her a lesson. In fact, this is what I wanted to tell the woman who told me it would: “Or maybe she’ll kill herself, because people say the cruelest, nastiest things in the comments of videos such as these. People have killed themselves from being humiliated on the internet.”

Her crime was shoplifting. She was fighting against the detective, but she wasn’t trying to hurt him or anyone else. She just wanted him to let her go. If she shoplifted, being arrested is punishment enough. But to put her on the internet, just for others’ entertainment? That makes me mad, sad, and hurt for this young girl. Her alleged crime has no reason to make me angry. Yet, her being recorded does.

If she did shoplift, I don’t know why she did it. The obvious answer is impulsiveness, but all shoplifters have their unique reasons. We all have it in us to be just as impulsive as her, so why should we think ourselves above this young girl? Why should we think we’re better than her? We shouldn’t, and that is what that woman was doing when she made that comment.

It is not okay to do this to other people who aren’t physically harming anyone, threatening anyone, or verbally abusing anyone. This young girl simply kept repeating that she wanted to be let go of. She wasn’t even calling anyone any names. She was crying, upset, and scared. And all of this is going to be seen by thousands of people who WILL leave terrible comments. They’ll laugh, and because she’s a young girl, they’ll call her sexist words. In fact, I have no doubt I’m going to be in the video, but I don’t care. If I can be a distraction from her for even a few seconds, then so be it.  In fact, nothing of this nature needs to be put on the internet. Fights don’t need to be put on the internet. Pranks don’t need to be put on the internet. Cruelty, period, doesn’t need to be put on the internet. All people do is upload it for the entertainment of others, just to amuse others–and that is sickening. Now whether or not I was being foolish for chastising this man remains to be seen, but one thing I learned is that I have it in me to stand up for others who I don’t even know anything about. Her shoplifting doesn’t tell me much about her. It simply tells me she’s impulsive. But that man videoing her? That tells me A LOT about him.

I can only pray this young girl will learn her lesson and become stronger for it, if she indeed did shoplift. I can also pray that she will still be able to find a job through someone’s compassion and forgiveness. I pray she never does it again, and I pray this video will not psychologically damage her to such an extent  that she will be a danger to herself or even others.

I shared this to make people realize that we are all connected with one another. You are never harming just one person. Never.

Deism

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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

10 thoughts on “Smart Phone Bullying

  1. Amber,
    Your post struck a chord in me. Sometimes I wish we did not all have camera phones or other technology that exacerbates the ability to humiliate and embarrass others. What you did to help is admirable and kind. We all are connected, yet many don’t possess the consciousness to realize it. In time it will reach critical mass but we are not there yet.

    peace,
    Linda

    1. I agree. This is the horrible thing about all of this advancing technology. I wanted to cry for her as I was driving home. I’m still upset about it, like even though she stole, I wish I could have reached out to her, just so I could know what was going to happen to her after, just to know that she’s eventually going to be okay and that she learned her lesson, if she did indeed shoplift.

      1. Perhaps your advocacy will make a difference. I am so tired of the bullying in our culture. The thing about the internet is that what happens here, stays here forever.
        Sometimes I think that we as a people do not have the integrity necessary to use this technology responsibly.

  2. Beautiful post and observation Amber. I think the people who share in the culpability also need to be mentioned, namely those who are watching these kinds of videos. The Internet, reality television, and the decreasing sensitivity to what is ethically and morally ‘okay’ to share with others, is the reason that people don’t see anything wrong with video-taping someone’s distress, trauma, anger, or negative human moments. It’s time to be aware of these things and share them. I applaud your courage in standing up to the man who was taping, and for sharing the story here.
    Blessings,
    Patricia

    1. Thank you. This comments means a lot. This is why I don’t watch reality shows. They’re scripted anyway. I’m still so upset. I know it happens all the time, but because I was there and saw him doing it, I couldn’t help but to blow up at him. That young girl was probably already embarrassed, because she was causing a huge scene, but it doesn’t help when someone wants to share her embarrassment to thousands of people who don’t even know her. I don’t know her, but she does not deserve what he did. Let the justice system take care of her punishment, not some foolish, immature outsider who lacks human compassion and empathy.

  3. I think you’re totally awesome for what you did. It’s ridiculous how everything these days has to be videoed and stuck on the internet. And then the stinking trolls see it, the bullying and nasty comments begin, and people get hurt. Enough already. We need more brave, caring people like you, Amber. Merry Christmas!

  4. The downside of technology is that once a video is uploaded it would be up there permanently. Even though the girl shoplift, still it doesn’t give a person, the right to humiliate her by posting the video online.

    I think some people are heartless bastards. Once the damage is done, I fear it would be difficult for someone to recover.

    I hope that kid is doing all right.

    1. I hope so too. I talked to the sheriff who managed her case. He said she was a rough one to deal with because she tried to get away again, so she actually did shoplift. Hopefully it’s just a misdemeanor for her, and she’ll just have to pay a fine. And hopefully she learned her lesson, especially from that day.

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