Thursday, 1 August 2013

Life Of A Stranger...

Ibiza Sunset
(Photo credit: ST33VO)
It's been going the rounds the past couple of days, with nearly half a million visits knocked up in about a week or so of its existence: Life Of A Stranger Who Stole My Phone is a tumblr blog put up by a vengeful German tourist after her mobile was nicked during a drunken skinny-dip in Ibiza.

About four months after the incident, she noticed her phone was uploading images to Dropbox - whoever had stolen it hadn't disabled the feature. Worse, someone called Hafid tried to hit on her, accessing her Facebook account from the mobile. The images clearly show Dubai locations - and Hafid's love of selfies and his friends' goonish activities combine nicely with the waspish commentary of a girl wronged. It's compelling stuff - Hafid is such a numb-nut and she's so clearly still angry. Daft picture by daft picture, we all enjoy Hafid's daftness vicariously through his unwitting sharing and her witting barbs. The combination of clownish young Arab men and vengeful Valkyrie is glorious.

I have been enjoying the blog along with so many others, right up to the point where @sudanpessimist wondered during a Twitter conversation, "Probably poor guy brought it from a second hand shop. Doesn't seem to be able to afford Ibiza hols :("

That was an 'oh' moment. Because flicking back over Hafid's piccies with that thought in mind, you get the feeling that maybe my Sudanese friend has a point. Part of what makes Hafid so amusing in the context of the blog is that he is, indeed, pretty - well, basic. And if he does have a point, then something terrible is happening. Because Hafid might just have bought a second hand phone. And over half a million people are laughing at him because he's simple and poor.

I found myself caught in time. I dislike Internet mobs and I'd found myself in one. I stood and let the crowd move on, the burning brand in my hand useless and held limply to my side. The monster in the castle on the hill might not be a monster after all. And we were all so ready to believe in the monster. We always are - remember 'dog poop girl', the Korean student whose life was destroyed by a JPG?

If our young German friend decides to come to the UAE for her next holiday, she could be in for a surprise. Because of course in UAE law she has defamed Hafid by posting his private images online. Sure, you could argue it was using her private phone and her private Dropbox and the act of theft preceded his use but I suspect even if he were the thief the law would stand. But if he wasn't the thief he actually has been thoroughly defamed and the UAE's law would actually be serving justice in a way any European sensibility would recognise as fair.

Which is pretty wacky, if you ask me. And all part of defining the new moral landscape that is the Web...

Postscript. Now the Daily Mail's picked up the story. Reading it on an iPad, I realised I recognised the mosque in the pictures posted up on the blog - it's the big 'Sheikh Mohammed' mosque outside the Sharjah Radisson Blu. And the beach in shot is down along from our house.


Grumpy Goat said...

The thought had occurred to me, only my phrase of choice was: "Bought from a bloke in a pub."

Farrukh Naeem said...

Good idea to do post on your own blog about it, Alex.

I must have been among the first people to post to her blog (in the question submit section) pointing out that Hafiz is surely not someone who would have the means to party on a beach in Ibiza and might simply have bought her phone second-hand.

Well, guess what, in light of the fame that has ensued... publishing my comment would have spoilt all the fun for this tourist.

I wouldn't be surprised if this leads to a book deal.

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