An article recently came out about white van posts on Facebook that were causing parents to fear for their children’s safety. According to the article, there was little proof to back up these claims bu tthe fear that these posts created caused mass chaos online and real hysteria in real life. I’ve seen the shared posts myself, telling an elaborate story about how someone evaded being kidnapped or trafficked to the relief of the poster, but played as a cautionary tale to those who shared and read it. When posts like these cannot be verified, people believe in the truthfulness of the poster and would not question why someone would post something untrue. In their sense of duty to warn others, they share the post and continue to propagate unfounded fears.
In one post, someone talks about how they think were almost tricked into being trafficked, but didn’t get out of the car, foiling the perpetrator’s plans. My question is ‘how do you know the reason they were taking you was for trafficking?’ What if they just wanted to kill you? But trafficking is a buzz word and to include that in a post will get more shares and likes even though that is not how most trafficking cases occur. Most victims of trafficking know their abusers and a large percentage of them may be at-risk youth who can be missed, involved with drugs or selling drugs, or leading lives that would put them at risk for trafficking. There are a few instances where girls are taken without any of these attributes and trafficked, but even in those cases, they knew at least one of the persons that trafficked them.
The point is that no one is questioning the veracity of these claims that are striking real fear into everyday people and when they do, they are met with a wall of anger because many feel as if the post, whether true or not, are simply trying to inform people. The truth is, if we blindly share those posts without really thinking about what we are sharing, we are contributing to a larger problem that creates fear and distrust for our children, our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves. When we believe these unfounded lies, we start to live as if we must guard ourselves at all times against potential crimes that may never materialize. These types of activities are definitely happening in the world, and we should be vigilant about them, but we shouldn’t live in fear of things that your friend shared but didn’t even read through.