Wow. Makes you lose faith in fellow humans when you hear that the social media video from the US which went viral, of a homeless man using his last 20 dollars to help a stranded New Jersey woman buy petrol, was actually a complete lie manufactured to get strangers to donate more than $400,000 to help the alleged ‘Good Samaritan’. Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina has announced filing of criminal charges against the couple who told the story to newspapers and television stations along with the homeless man who conspired with them to cook up this story. The money, donated by thousands of individuals and organizations to the homeless Marine veteran Johnny Bobbitt, will be refunded to people who saw the story and contributed through a GoFundMe page set up by the couple, Mark D'Amico and Katelyn McClure.
There are lessons to be learnt from this episode, though, on the misuse of the power of social media. False campaigns and other such scams have become common on the Internet but unlike the Nigerian prince scams of yore, the scamsters are now preying on that most essential of human emotions – empathy – to make a quick buck.
The naivety of those who swallow whole any narrative they see or read on social media is something that needs attention too. Fictitious narratives and stories are all over social media and it behoves all genuine do-gooders to check, re-check and counter-check the facts -- plus use common sense – before they end up disseminating lies.