Be careful not to judge before you get the full story when you see something online.
A (since-deleted) video posted on Twitter went viral and was viewed over 2.4 million times by Monday afternoon. The clip showed a man shaving on a New Jersey Transit train coming out of New York, and was greeted with plenty of nasty jokes and comments about the unnamed passenger.
“I never thought it would go viral, people making fun of me,” said Anthony Torres, 56, the man in the video. He tells the Associated Press that the people who insulted him for the video on social media don’t know what he’s been through.
It turns out Torres was on the train after leaving the homeless shelter where he’d been staying for a few days in New York City. After he reached out to his family for help, one of his brothers gave him money to pay for his train ticket.
Torres left the shelter before he got the chance to shower, and wanted to look “presentable” before he met another of his brothers, Thomas, down in Atco, N.J. He’d have to take another bus ride to get there after departing the train.
“I don’t want to say that I’m homeless, let everybody know,” said Torres. “That’s why I was shaving.”
Torres has worked a number of jobs, including casino security guard and construction, and has moved to find work, including to Florida, where his adult son lives. He says he’s had two strokes in the past two years.
He was raised on a farm with Thomas and four other brothers in Hammonton, N.J., a bit further south from where Thomas now lives, where his family grew up poor.
You wouldn’t get all this context from the viral video—not that you would necessarily need it to keep from passing judgment on someone who’s clearly going through a vulnerable moment. The man in the video wasn’t bothering anyone, and there’s plenty of far worse people who deserve to be scorned all over social media. If you shared the video and now feel guilty, consider whether you’re punching up the next time you get your jokes off on Twitter.