#PlaneBae – A Case Study in Online Trust
Earlier this year, two young, semi-professional strangers were forced together on a plane, starting a so called romance that took the internet by storm. It was known as #PlaneBae.
#PlaneBae began when a newly wed couple discovered the seats they’d been allocated were a row apart. The woman in question, lifestyle and beauty blogger, Rosey Blair, asked if the lady next to her husband would mind switching seats – something she was more than happy to do. This left the married couple together, and the strangers in question within touching distance.
Rosey then took it upon herself to curate an imagined love story between the two strangers, using Instagram Stories to push out a series of ‘alternative facts’. Events such as ‘going to the toilet together’ and ‘touching arms in their seats’ were enjoyed by a mass of avid online followers, all on the edge of their seats, watching what they thought was a modern-day fairytale unfold.
Everybody involved in the #PlaneBae story felt the effects in a different way. Rosey Blair had aspirations of working at Buzzfeed, and this story gave her a great viral case study to help her career. The reality of the situation was different for the two strangers. Far from a real-time, whirlwind romance, they’d had no connection and were simply the victims of circumstance and an aspiring influencer.
The man, later identified as Euan Holden, was a retired professional football player and aspiring model, whose exposure led to offers of work. On the other hand, the woman who had innocently given up her seat, was bombarded with comments and abuse from the online audience. It led to her decision to shut down her social media accounts. The audience had made up their minds and formed opinions on their perception of the facts. Onlookers either loved her, or hated her, but it all stemmed from fake news.
We’ve all been guilty of giving away trust online. We take headlines and clickbait on face value. Fake news travels faster than real news, because the former is more exciting than the latter. Genuine news is less fun – it’s realistic and expected. By altering the truth, those producing fake news can gain higher engagement and more attention online. If we spot it for what it is and ignore it, it’ll go away.
Let’s clean up the social landscape – think before you share.