"This story needs to go viral," begins the Facebook post. And voila, it did.
Making that explicit request isn't enough to jolt the internet to action. What you're saying needs to have something more to it, some hook, some value that the information you're providing will bring to people's lives.
Like racism. Or xenophobia, or anti-Muslim fear-mongering. People can't get enough of that shit.
The post, penned by Sharon Orman, tells a frightening story about what sounds like a narrowly averted kidnapping. Orman sets the scene as having played out at a Fourth of July fireworks show in Spring Lake Park in Rochester.
According to Orman's tale, she and her family loved the show, especially when "a young man started singing catchy songs." The fun music made some of Orman's group excited. They were like, "Lets [sic] go!" Orman recalls. But their boyfriends didn't want to dance to the young man's catchy songs (lame!), so Orman, a friend, and five kids made their way up to the stage sans men.
There, while "dancing, singing, jumping with joy," Orman says she noticed one man who stood out.
Tell us about the man, Sharon.
He was a 40-50 year old Arab man who was standing completely still, right behind my daughter. He looked blank in every way possible. He noticed that i had noticed him and we locked eyes, i pulled my 4 year old away from him and she was upset that i had taken her view of the stage away so she started dancing again. Then he was right behind her again, but this time he pulled out his phone and took her picture, i launched at him and he started to walk away but as he walked away from me he grabbed Amora's head to see if she would willingly come with him. NO WAY i ran after this man. I screamed for him and he pretended not to hear me, i finally touched him and he turned around. I yelled at him and tried to take his phone he replied " sorry she is just so beautiful with a disgusting SMIRK on his face, then out of the dark path way two older men ( also middle eastern ) emerged and stood behind him firmly. I screamed at him for touching my daughter and demanded the phone back, i told him i was calling the cops he said "OO so scary" in a mocking tone. I then got furious and said their dad was going to beat the crap out of them, he responded with " he is not here though" immediately i became panicked they had been watching us, i was thinking there was more of them in the group and turned around to get my babies. After this incident we got the hell out of there.
The post goes on to say that Orman had reported her creepy experience to the police, who confirmed it was "100% a kidnapping attempt, these men sell little girls into sex trafficking."
"These men" in this sentence means... those three guys, just, on a hunch? "Arab" and "middle eastern" men? Bachelors at Fourth of July fireworks?
Toward the end of the story, Orman writes, "This post i hope is shared by many and taken very seriously." The former has already been accomplished: By midday Monday, her message was approaching 2,000 shares on Facebook.
The latter? Perhaps not. At least not by the Rochester Police Department, where Capt. John Sherwin says the story reads like a fake. And a badly ripped-off one at that.
No one has called Rochester cops to report anything like this, Sherwin tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin, and a quick Google search informed him that eerily similar stories have been circulating on the hugely refutable internet for years. Most of them "have been debunked," Sherwin says.
That's because they're all pretty much the same story, recycled, with the details changed. Snopes.com says the almost-got-sex-trafficked-by-scary-guys story has been variously set in North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and elsewhere.
One such story was set in a grocery store in Michigan, where two guys were said to have stalked a mother and daughter in a grocery store. When that story also went viral, and reached press and police, the woman walked back details... and ultimately recanted almost all of it.
Snopes checked with Olmsted County, which, like city cops, said no one had called to report an attempted kidnapping, and they sure as hell didn't tell anyone that random men were involved in sex trafficking.
We'll see if Sharon Orman chooses to stick with her story as a true one.
In the meantime, if you absolutely insist that the Facebook post "needs to go viral," try making a close-up video of someone baking cookies.