She was the lowest of the low, in some people's eyes: an employee at Burger King.
Even worse, in their eyes, she was doing something unusual--lying on a cardboard box on the sidewalk outside during her break, trying to get a few badly needed minutes of sleep.
Of course that meant she was fair game for someone else to shame online, and use her to try to get views, shares, and likes on social media. That's exactly what a man who spotted her did.
He woke her, mocked her, called her a name, and dropped multiple F-bombs in his short interaction.Then he posted the whole thing on Facebook.
"Yo! What are you doing? Why the [censored] are you sleeping on the ground?" he says in the video. "This [censored] crazy as [censored]!"
It worked. His video took off. He tore her down and built himself up, and he likely never would have thought about her again.
Except that the truth came out.
A teacher paying off her student loans
A manager at the Burger King shared the woman's real story.
"She's a teacher, and she's trying to pay off her student loans and everything by working several jobs," the manager told the Cheektowaga Chronicle.
People can surely relate to that. The average American now owes $35,000 in student loans when he or she graduates from college. And the average starting salary for a school teacher in New York state is about $44,000.
So, just about everyone who hears the woman's true story reacts with sympathy and respect. She's exhausted from having to work her full-time day job and then moonlight on the weekends serving burgers and fries.
"We don't have outside seating, so she was sitting on the sidewalk trying to take her break, which she is allowed to do under the labor law," the manager continued, adding, "People need to mind their own business and find out the real story before they go posting crap on social media."
Everyone is fighting a battle
The whole thing is unfortunate and disturbing, but probably not surprising.
We reward people now for their social media prowess. The entire influencer industry is based on it. And we've created technology that allows jerks like the guy who recorded and posted the video in this story to get a few minutes of fame, or at least viral bragging rights.
Harsh comments and mildly weird things that would have once been forgotten almost instantly now can live on forever.
Understandably, the employee is upset about the video, and wants to remain anonymous. We'll honor that here of course. (There's a version of the video embedded below, but it has the employee's face blurred, and it's hosted separately so the added views won't benefit the original poster.)
I suspect few people reading this article would ever do something like this. It's a better class of people normally reading these articles.
But we do all make snap judgments, even judgments that we'd regret if we only knew the full story.
I think Tim Ferriss put it best: "Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about."
So why allow yourself to make their fight a little more difficult?
An edited version of the video is below. Again, this version blurs the employee's face so she can't be identified.