South San Francisco, CA September 9, 2023 by Mark Johnson, resident of South San Francisco
To my friends and neighbors on Everything South City:
The attached message (below) was posted Monday 8/14 on Nextdoor.
The post had a photo of the subject (which I have NOT included), easy to identify as a young man (I‘ll call him L) who rented a room in a home on North Spruce, next door to the house his parents owned for many years and where he grew up. L is well known to many residents of SSF; many were fellow-students at Martin and Parkway schools.
The SSF police detailed staff to interview people and assess the report. Many of L’s neighbors and friends (some as far away as Roseville) were called – they were uniformly happy to give him a good character. We can be sure, though, that police interviewed other neighbors who only know he was reported as a criminal – and now view L with suspicion he doesn’t deserve!
L is a quiet, friendly person about 40; a minor disability has kept him intermittently employed. Over the past 10-15 years he lived with his mother in Millbrae until she passed away last year. Now, suspicion and distrust from his neighbors disturbed him enough to leave what he felt was a safe and welcoming situation in the home of people he’s known all his life.
You and I understand the poster was expressing fear – but bringing that to Nextdoor, Patch, X, or Facebook was irresponsible. She talks about catalytic converter thefts – but we know she wouldn’t see those guys doing business there at mid-day. She didn‘t attempt to make any contact with L to find out if her fears were grounded. And she didn’t consider that he was just a neighbor innocently walking near his own home!
Fortunately, a reader who’d grown up with L not only was able to vouch for his friend – he took the initiative to directly message the poster. He convinced her to remove the photo (a few days too late!)
A single unconsidered post exposed an innocent subject to unwarranted harassment. Several readers told me they believe the post is racial-profiling (L is an Asian-American), and think the poster is bigoted. Neighbors who knew nothing of the subject except that someone labeled him as a probable criminal are now frightened and alienated from each other. L is now living in his car. Nobody won – except advertisers on Nextdoor!
We’re constantly told that social media promotes stupid decisions. Asking the police to look into something you find suspicious is fine. Publicly sharing your fears and biases is not good. Remember that if and when you‘re tempted to share on any of these applications – but don’t know the facts!