Looks can be very deceiving

Published 4:59 pm Friday, June 28, 2024

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A person can see all sorts of things on social media.

There are videos of joyous occasions such as a child’s birthday party, or a gender reveal party, or a retirement party for a co-worker…..the list is endless.

Then there are just plain dumb videos…individuals using sunscreen placed in a pattern on their back, then going out and getting sunburned on purpose so that the pattern stands out.

I once watched another dumb video of teens smashing gallons of milk on the floor in a supermarket. I guess that was one of those TikTok challenges.

How many of us have watched a video on social media of what appears to be a criminal activity, only to later learn that wasn’t really the case. A great number of posted videos don’t show the entire ordeal.

Case in point is Bill Astle. The Missouri man is employed by Spark, a delivery service for Walmart. He receives orders for items in the store, takes them off the shelf, and scans the barcodes into an app on his smartphone.

When the order is complete, Astle goes to the self-service checkout, scans his phone, bags the items, and exits the store to make his delivery.

However, that simple job turned into a nightmare for Astle last month. A regular customer at Walmart was waiting in the self-service checkout line and noted Astle not scanning any of the items in his cart. So what did they do? Motion for a manager to come over….report him to the Customer Service Desk…..or find a security guard?

Nope…nope…and nope. Rather, they reached for their smartphone and shot a quick video of Astle at the self-service checkout. That person then posted the video on their social media account.

“This man is really just stealing everything,” a woman can be heard saying in the video.

The video went viral….attracting over 16 million views and perhaps just as many nasty comments about Bill Astle being a shoplifter.

But he’s not…he was someone just doing their job.

“I’ve had customers say, ‘Hey, didn’t I see you on the internet? Didn’t you steal items?’ And then I have to explain to people what I was doing,” he said.

Astle says he has receipts that show he was working at Walmart that day as he works to clear his name and get his life back to normal.

According to Astle, there was an item he paid for that day personally and it was Mother’s Day flowers for his wife. But the video had ended prior to that moment.

“They would have seen when I got done with the Spark delivery order, I scanned two dozen roses and used my debit card to pay for them,” Astle said.

Astle urged social media users to not post videos of strangers, especially if they are not certain of what’s going on.

If you want real news about real dumb social media challenges, read on!

According to Gray News, two teens in Florida were recently arrested after participating in a social media challenge where they kicked in people’s doors.

Over a two-week period of time, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office investigated four reports of individuals walking up to a home during early morning hours and kicking the door, sometimes causing it to fly open.

Deputies said two 15-year-old boys seen in surveillance video lived within walking distance of the four homes.

According to authorities, one teen told deputies they kicked the doors in response to a trend they saw on social media called the “Door Kick Challenge.”

The teens said they never intended to enter any of the homes, deputies said.

“This situation was exceptionally dangerous on several levels,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis. “First, there was a very good possibility that these young men could have been shot and killed by a homeowner lawfully defending the household. Second, if this occurred, the homeowner would have been burdened with the fact he or she killed two teenagers who were participating in a stupid activity.”

Officials said both teens were arrested and charged with four counts of burglary of a dwelling. They were taken to jail where they were processed and released into the custody of their parents.

Back in 2021, there was a social media challenge that involved vandalism to schools. Nine students were arrested on misdemeanor vandalism charges in Marion County Public Schools in north-central Florida for incidents including hand dryers and paper towel dispensers being pulled off the wall and destruction of a urinal.

In Kentucky, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office reported that eight juveniles were charged in offenses related to the trend – four face charges of vandalism, four face charges of theft.

The Cleveland Clinic reported on its website that social media challenges can cause health-related issues, even death.

Social media amplifies the power of peer pressure, and rewards dangerous risk-taking with likes, shares and empty promises of insta-fame, officials at the Clinic noted.

“It’s tricky because teens can get positive reinforcement with all the likes and views from the videos they post,” says pediatric emergency medicine specialist Purva Grover, MD. “So, the more risky or shocking, the greater the possibility that more people will see it.”

Challenge videos are particularly insidious. From swallowing cinnamon (which can cause permanent lung damage) to choking oneself to the point of blacking out (which left a 10-year-old girl brain dead), viral challenges on social media platforms encourage young people to record themselves taking inane risks.

Doing stupid stuff isn’t restricted to youngsters.

Last week, the New York State Police said two parents have been charged after they allegedly left their infant alone on the shore of a lake so they could go boating.

Troopers responded to a report of an infant left unattended on the beach in the area of Lake Shore Drive in Lake George at around 5:47 p.m. Tuesday (June 18). Troopers learned that a passerby “heard a child crying for an extended period of time.”

They discovered the child alone approximately 5 feet from the shoreline. The child’s parents allegedly left the child unattended for “approximately 15 minutes while they went boating in the lake,” police said.

Both parents were arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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