Take everything you see on social media with a grain of salt. People (sometimes accidentally, sometimes maliciously) spread false information. A picture or video could be misleading, especially when the context is unknown. However, many people assume they have all the facts and jump to conclusions. This happened in 2019 when a photo of an elderly lady standing on a train in Sydney evoked outrage online. In the photo, the woman gripped a pole while four younger commuters remain seated with earphones in their ears, seemingly ignoring her.
Photo of Elderly Lady Standing on the Train
The now-deleted picture was shared by the Facebook group Aussie Aussie Aussie Aussie with the caption “No respect”. But not before it was shared over 22,000 times and garnered thousands of comments. Many of these slammed the other passengers for not giving up their seats.
“Heartless souls. Some say they are called the Millennial generation,” said one commenter on Reddit where the photo was reposted. 
Another said, “They need slapping, the lot of em, obviously they have no respect or manners!”
One 16-year-old added, “I would have offered my seat as soon as she jumped on the train; I’ve done it before for an old lady.” And there were plenty of people echoing the same sentiment.
Someone else wrote, “I’m 20 and I can’t believe this. None of them would’ve heard if she’d even asked politely for the seat – all three seated with their earphones in or headphones on! Where’s the human connection?”
However, some people defended the seated commuters, saying that there could be an honest explanation for this scene. “Not defending them but… someone may have offered, but the elderly said ‘No It’s ok I’m getting off soon or at the next stop…”
Another suggested, “It might be too hard for her to sit and stand back up. I’d like to think the kid with the hat offered. The other 3 are worthless.”
The third group of comments criticized the person who took the photo. “Why not man up and say something to them instead of taking a pic to get likes,” said one.
“Typical person today,” said another. “Take a photo and complain on Facebook but don’t have the balls to say something in real life.”
The Truth Comes Out
As the outrage continued, Sydney Trains gave a statement to Daily Mail, saying, “Sydney Trains encourages all of its passengers to observe appropriate transport etiquette including respecting elderly, disabled or pregnant customers by offering up their seats.”
However, a new statement came out on Ben Fordham’s 2GB radio show. This time, it came from the grandson of the elderly lady standing in the photo.
“The mature age lady was preparing to disembark at the next station — she’s my nanna,” the man wrote. Those who guessed that she stood to get off at the next stop were correct all along.
Fordham stated that people were “too quick to judge” in this case. The seated commuters were being vilified online, having done nothing wrong in this case. Although everyone who criticized them had righteous outrage for the elderly lady stuck standing on public transit, perhaps they should have maintained the benefit of the doubt until they received more information. Despite this event taking place years ago, this lesson becomes more and more relevant every day.
Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins said it best when he stated pictures “can be deceiving”. There was a second moral to this story. “This is an opportunity,” Collins said, “to remind people that while we’re in our world of texts and headphones, we should just be looking up and checking, is there someone who could do with your seat?” 
Keep in mind, however, that some ailments and disabilities are invisible to outsiders. So the next time you see people refusing to give up their seats, there may be a good reason why.
Public Transit Etiquette
Most people have experienced annoying or rude individuals on public transportation or Uber for that matter. It may have been the pair talking obnoxiously loud. Or the passenger shoving through the crowd to board the train. Or the person sitting by the aisle seat and blocking everyone else from the window seat. Most of the time, people ignore an awful display; after all, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever see that person again. But every time you get on a bus, plane, or train, make sure that you’re not that awful display. Here is some public transportation etiquette everyone should abide by.
- Don’t speak loudly on the phone. Keep the conversation short and quiet.
- Don’t lean on the poles; it prevents other people from holding on.
- Wear headphones. Never play music or videos over the speakers.
- Give up your seat to people who are elderly, disabled, or pregnant.
- One person per seat. Don’t spread out, whether it’s your legs or your bags, over more seats.
- Avoid drinking or eating, especially pungent foods.
- Don’t stand by the doors; you’re blocking people coming in and out.
- Don’t shove.
- Bring your garbage with you. Nobody wants to deal with your empty water bottle, used tissue, or old newspaper on the seat. 
- Let people exit the vehicle before you get on.
- Have your fare ready to avoid holding up the line while you dig through your wallet.
- On an uncrowded vehicle, respect the other passengers’ personal space.
- Take off your backpack on a crowded bus to make more space for others. 
- Be mindful of the people around you and move out of the way when they are trying to enter or exit.
- Don’t distract the driver while en route and remember to say thank you when you exit.
- “Photo of an Elderly Lady Standing on the Train While Youngsters Glued to Their Phones Remain Seated Causes Outrage.” Women Working. Asmita S. April 17, 2019
- “Grandson of viral elderly train commuter speaks out.” News Australia. Rhian Deutrom. February 13, 2019
- “Public transport etiquette: 28 ways you’re doing it wrong.” RACV. Tianna Nadalin. October 30, 2019
- “Public Transportation Etiquette.” The Spruce. Debby Mayne. February 8, 2019