A woman whose chance interaction with a male on an airplane was subject to a real-time commentary published to millions of prying social media users has referred to the incident as a “digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent”.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, met a man on an airplane on the 2nd July. Their chance interaction was facilitated by Twitter user Rosey Blair and her boyfriend, after Blair asked the woman to give up her seat to allow her boyfriend to sit next to her.
When the woman, the eventual target of the running commentary, took her seat beside the man, Blair began publicly speculating about what may happen between the two.
Her first published tweet about the incident stated:
“Last night on a flight home, my boyfriend and I asked a woman to switch seats with me so we could sit together. We made a joke that maybe her new seat partner would be the love of her life and well, now I present you with this thread”.
While Blair attempted to conceal the physical identity of her targets (an attempt which seemingly failed), for the gratification of her followers her commentary charted each moment of the chance interaction and included pictures taken to emphasize their proximity to each other and updating millions of users when they went to the bathroom together.
Blair and her boyfriend then tracked down the Instagram profiles of their targets and posted a topless photograph of the male, Euan Holden, who has since chosen to reveal his identity publicly. The topless photograph was captioned with the words: “This is the dude from the plane!!!!! Yaaaaaas girl!!!!!”
Her commentary was published and widely shared on social media. It was then subject to further publicity from news organizations and the incident is now colloquially referred to as “#PlaneBae”.
The subjects were unaware their interaction was being monitored and at no point did Blair ask for consent to publish their private interaction to millions of social media users. Some videos posted to her Twitter feed about the incident have received over 3 million views.
Blair has subsequently deleted some of the tweets, however not before they had the effect of attracting tens of thousands of new followers to her Twitter account. Some commentators also allege that Blair asked for a job at Buzzfeed and free plane tickets following the publicity generated by the tweets.
The female target of the running commentary, who has since felt compelled to delete all of her social media profiles, subsequently provided a statement to Business Insider.
“I am a young professional woman,” she said.
“Since [the incident], 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…please continue to respect my privacy, and my desire to remain anonymous”.
While upwards of millions of people interacted with the tweets and encouraged the real-time commentary, some public commentators referred to it as a “gross violation of privacy”.
Blair has since posted a public apology to her Twitter feed, proclaiming she’s “at a loss” and was “overcome…with excitement”. She also states she “could not see the potential exploitative nature of the outcome”. In her apology she also referred to her female target by her first name.