Only a week ago, it was being touted as the modern world's greatest love story.

But now the viral saga of an American couple who live-tweeted two strangers hitting it off in front of them on a plane is now facing a massive backlash.

The female subject at the story's core never consented to being posted about, and while her face was blurred in the coverage, the internet still managed to track her down.

It's renewed an important debate over privacy and publishing consent in the social media age. Does publishing an intentionally lighthearted story require consent of the subjects? At what point does an innocent joke go too far? And what are the ethics around using a stranger's story to go viral?



The story started when Texas-based Rosey Blair and her boyfriend hopped on their flight home and discovered they weren't seated together.

Fortunately another woman agreed to switch places. As she did so, Blair joked that maybe the woman's new seat partner "would be the love of her life".

But when the woman's seat mate arrived, Blair realised her off-handed comment may have been more accurate than she thought, and so she and her boyfriend started documenting the budding love story on social media.

The thread immediately went viral. It became known as the #PlaneBae saga, garnering hundreds of thousands of retweets on social media, with the story being covered by everyone from the Today show to Buzzfeed News to — yes —

But it's since sparked a debate over strangers' right to privacy — even if the attention being thrown at them is positive.


Euan Holden, who was later identified as the man seated in front of Blair and her partner, shared a video of himself asking people to respect the other woman's privacy.

Unfortunately, he included her name in the video, and people sought to track her down, despite the woman in question not giving permission for her identity to be shared.

In a follow-up video with her boyfriend, Blair said: "We don't have the gal's permish (permission) yet. But I'm sure you guys are sneaky." This video has since been removed.


Meanwhile, the social media conversation has moved from one pushing the virality of the "great love story" to one around consent and privacy in the internet age.


The #PlaneBae saga — and the subsequent backlash — sparked a series of think pieces around privacy and consent to sharing information about a stranger.

Allure's Rosemary Donahue said "boundaries apparently meant nothing to the pair", accusing Rosey of "painstakingly" creating the Twitter thread for viral gain.

"While Blair might've just gotten caught up in the story (especially since she was being egged on by followers), it highlights the importance of taking a breath and asking ourselves why we feel so entitled to others' space in public," writes Donahue.

"When these lighthearted viral threads involve unsuspecting participants, it's not a distraction. It's a violation."

Katherine Cross from The Verge said using an encounter between strangers to go viral can be "a messed-up thing to do".

"We should be thinking more seriously about the ethics of live-tweeting: when is it appropriate? When it is, what should and shouldn't you do? In Blair's case, she seemed to think that lightly obscuring the faces of the two people she surveilled was enough to be ethical.

"Yet the identities of both were inevitably pursued and eventually discovered. At a certain level of virality, you cannot stop motivated people on the internet from piercing your veils.

"In the case of that woman from Blair's flight, her legions of "fans" are digging day and night to find more information, to meet the female lead of this summer's hottest rom-com.

"They want to know what happens next. They want to make her finish the story. Go on a date; now kiss; now get engaged; tell us what it was like. We need to know more. More. More."

A number of commentators also noted the role of sexism in how the story was received — while Holden made media appearances and was praised over the stint, the unidentified woman was attacked — particularly after the pair simultaneously got up to use the bathroom.

Writing in The Atlantic, Taylor Lorenz suggests Blair's coverage denied the woman a voice in how the story turned out, serving as an example of an "obnoxious trend" to tweet about strangers.

"What sounds like romantic banter to an eavesdropper could be a nightmare for one or both of the people involved," Lorenz wrote. "Blair repeatedly implies in her thread that Helen is flirting with Holden, but was she?

"Who is to say this woman wasn't simply politely entertaining the man next to her for fear of being rude? Or perhaps she has a partner at home. She should be allowed to casually flirt or make a new friend without people on the internet suggesting that she had sex with a stranger in a plane bathroom."


After the backfire Blair tweeted an apology, saying "the last thing I want to do is to remove agency and autonomy from another woman".

She also noted that she hadn't profited off her viral fame, although she did face additional fire for attempting to wrangle a job out of Buzzfeed over it, and declaring her interest to write a screenplay.

Blair also posted a lengthy Instagram post, describing herself as "some strange variety of journalist", and saying she was hoping the story would "inspire" people to see that love is everywhere.

💕My name is Rosey. Kinda funny now that it rhymes with Nosey. I love love. Earnestly. My favorite film is You’ve Got Mail (or easily any other of the Nora Ephron hits) and I believe in the possibility of magic in the minutiae of everyday life. Because of this belief, I wear a great deal of many hats. Blogger, writer, actor, photographer and now I suppose, some strange variety of journalist. I saw a story unfolding in front of my eyes recently and it filled me with the hope of possibility. A lot of people dismiss the idea of love at first sight because it’s a little schmaltzy, silly and perhaps cliche. My perspective is this: open your eyes up to possibility and you may see it all around you. One of my favorite life mantras when struck with the thought of “why is this happening to me” is to instead consider asking yourself “why is this happening FOR me”. It’s going to be strange to continue on the story of myself I’ve been documenting on my own social media and but I’ll try to do it a little for you today. I am a plus size woman and for years I believed dating and love were experiences that simply wouldn’t happen for me. I was proved wrong. I had (and very truthfully still have) quite a few chips on my shoulder but experiencing a love free from judgement has changed my life. This love came from myself and also my beautiful boyfriend. I hope that many of you are inspired by the story I shared. Sharing this story has also made me reconsider some of the thoughts of negativity I too have been guilty of putting out into the world. If you have been feeling low, I hope you are reinvigorated to serve yourself and those around you some much needed cheerfulness. I’ll be attempting to do the same. If you need me for some laughs, and some inspiration - I’ll be here doing my silly thing. ❤️📸 by @lydiahudgens

A post shared by Rosey ❤️ (@roseybeeme) on

At the time of publishing this article, all the tweets documenting the original story are still public.