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I’m a people watcher. I enjoy strangers. I wonder about their lives and their relationships. One of my favorite games is watching couples in the mall and trying to figure out the level of their relationship from first date to married for forty years. However, people watching has exploded into a disturbing trend: live tweeting.

For example: this story where a woman live tweeted a couple breaking up on a plane. There have been others like it… a couple’s first date, a couple’s’ argument, that sort of thing, and the public gobbles them up. There is something about an actual couple’s issues that grabs our attention. That shouldn’t be surprising, but it’s mean spirited.

There was a time when you heard something interesting from strangers that you might tell someone about it later. But taking pictures of them and live tweeting the action takes that to a whole new level. It goes from “I saw this couple the other day” to “Look at this couple. They are so pathetic. Look at her cry!” Perhaps it’s our taste for reality television, but I think that most people have lost their ability to sympathize with a stranger. And that’s dangerous.

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There have been times when people have been dead wrong about what they thought they were seeing. A Melbourne woman posted a picture of a man she believed was taking pictures of her children. Turned out he wasn’t–he was taking a selfie of himself by a Darth Vader statue to show to his own children. But that picture of the man’s face was shared thousands of times, and most of the people who saw it probably never saw the follow up story telling the truth. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do something when we see something wrong happening, but shooting a picture out into the interwebs isn’t a great first step. People’s reputations can be at stake.

Public shaming for sport is making a comeback, and I heartily disagree with it. It’s pits us against each other without taking the whole picture into account. It violates people’s privacy. It brings us all back to a cut throat junior high level, and if we’re adults, we really are supposed to be beyond that! When a pack of mean girls does it to some unsuspecting fourteen-year-old, it’s cruel.

Well, it’s still cruel. Maturity–it isn’t overrated. That’s my two cents.

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