By Pratik Desai, Class of 2017
Last week, a video surfaced on social media of an inebriated medical resident named Anjali Ramkissoon who caused a scene with and mistreated an Uber driver in Florida. Netizens of the internet quickly seized upon the story to express outrage, and it was not long before more reputable publications such as The Washington Post picked up on it. What ensued was arguably even more important. Netizens began dumping her photos and posts from private social media accounts online, along with highly unacceptable commentary completely irrelevant to the case at hand. Her behavior was certainly disturbing, but inappropriate commentary about her appearance, intelligence, character, etc., dominated the discourse of the day. As easy as it may have been to scream toxic words and laugh at memes being created, many people forgot the fact that they were dealing with a human being.
All humans make mistakes, and when they do, they face consequences. In this case, her employment, reputation, and future as a practitioner of medical care, are all at risk. The parties involved will decide what level of sanction for her is appropriate, but internet shaming is not.
What could have been an excellent opportunity to spark a public discourse on our expectations, policies, and laws governing such situations, turned into an otherwise pithy repository of deplorable language and rage. It can be angering to watch that video. However, this anger should be channeled into a constructive dialogue.
It was evident that - in this smartphone era - many individuals had no issue behaving eagerly like pseudo-citizen journalists. But why didn’t someone on the ground step in and do something to prevent it from escalating? Someone could have defused the situation, but nowhere were Anjali’s friends or wellwishers to be found.
I put forth three key lessons to learn from this event. First, under no circumstances is it just to be vitriolic and disrespectful to another person, even if he or she has done wrong. Second, be highly mindful of the company you keep. Will your friends film you behaving inappropriately, or stop you and safely see you home? Third, I challenge everyone to introspect. A young woman unfortunately lost control and behaved poorly. Perhaps many of us have behaved in a manner in which we were not proud of (without web-shaming or stoning). If not, then, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Let’s use this as an opportunity to discuss ways to educate and improve our people when encountering situations involving alcohol consumption. People and alcohol companies should be more vigilant in encouraging lower consumption of alcohol. Perhaps Uber can write policies to better train drivers (and to not throw inebriated passengers to the ground.) If the issue at-hand is difficulty procuring a ride, perhaps we should consider city-level alcohol taxes to fund safe, free rides home for inebriated individuals. There is no single, perfect solution, but the point is to be constructive and move society forward. Internet mob abuse is not - and will never be - a just cause.
Author Pratik Desai is a self-described Indophile, provocateur, musician, poet, animal lover, avid volunteer, and tech enthusiast.