On July 2 a cute-seeming story went viral, as someone named Rosey Blair live Tweeted what happened on her Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Dallas. I’d note that Rosey describes herself on Twitter as a “drama queen deep in the heart of Texas.”
Rosey was traveling with her boyfriend, though he was assigned a seat one row up. Rosey asked the lady seated next to her if she wouldn’t mind trading seats, and joked that her new seatmate may be the “love of her life.” The lady obliged.
As it turned out, the lady who switched seats ended up hitting it off with her new seatmate. So Rosey proceeded to live Tweet the entire flight, including details of the conversations the two were having, their every move, and she even posted pictures of them. Twitter ate up this story, and so many people found this to be a cute modern day romance. From the beginning I found the story to be a bit uncomfortable (which is why I didn’t write about it at the time).
I think the big problem with social media is that it’s very easy to stretch the truth, and once you’re committed to a narrative, you keep reporting that. When that happens, it becomes very easy to cross a line and invade privacy, which is exactly what happened here. It’s one thing to generically say that you traded seats with someone and they really hit it off with their new seatmate, but it’s a whole different story to live Tweet details of their conversations, and even post creeper pictures of them without their consent.
Initially the feedback with the story was overwhelmingly positive, and people were so invested in finding out more. The guy quickly came forward and took advantage of the spotlight, and even updated his Instagram to call himself “Plane Bae.”
While this may all seem cute, the woman who was involved isn’t taking the situation as lightly. Her lawyer had issued the following statement to Business Insider:
I am a young professional woman. On July 2, I took a commercial flight from New York to Dallas. Without my knowledge or consent, other passengers photographed me and recorded my conversation with a seatmate. They posted images and recordings to social media, and speculated unfairly about my private conduct.
Since then, my personal information has been widely distributed online. Strangers publicly discussed my private life based on patently false information.
I have been doxxed, shamed, insulted and harassed. Voyeurs have come looking for me online and in the real world.
I did not ask for and do not seek attention. #PlaneBae is not a romance—it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.
Please continue to respect my privacy, and my desire to remain anonymous.
She raises a very fair point, and this is something that’s easy to forget when a story is so cute-seeming.
Following that, Rosey posted an apology on Twitter:
I don’t know what to do. I am at a loss. When I made this and shared it, I was happy, joyful and overcome with authentic and sincere excitement. So much so that I could not see the potential exploitative nature of the outcome and my actions. The last thing I want to do is to remove agency and autonomy from another woman. I wish I could communicate the shame that I feel in having done this, but I truly feel that at this point my feelings are irrelevant. This may be coming too little too late. I’ve been instructed by peers who have experienced similar waves of positive and negative attention to let it blow over. That does not sit well with my conscience.
I’ve sat on this silently for a few days now. Helen, to you – although you’re not much of an internet fan, I hope you see this – I apologize for utilizing what could have been a beautiful charming moment among strangers as a tool to communicate a narrative I am fond of. I apologize for taking what should have been a small mundane moment of cheeriness and turning it into something foul and over-amplified. I apologize for taking away something that I myself value quite a bit – which is sharing one’s own story publicly as means to inspire others. What I have done is in no ways inspirational. Every woman has a right to her own story. And to have taken away yours and turned it into my own was wrong on many levels. Helen – to you, I offer my services. In whatever way you wish to continue this story – its now yours, as it should have been this entire time. Whatever decision you come to, I am humbled to honor it. And will work to right (or write) this wrong.
On one hand the apology seems sincere and extensive, though on the other hand it seems self-centered, and it seems like she didn’t learn anything, since she once again names the woman who wanted to remain anonymous all along.
Hopefully this is a good lesson for any similar future viral stories.
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)