Saturday, January 23, 2021

Candid photos evoke need for privacy

What would you do with instant, overnight fame? I’m sure most of us have a cheesy, ridiculous answer that wouldn’t really work if this actually came to pass. But actually being handed this Internet fame? That’s a big difference.

Twitter users went nuts over a secretly snapped photo of 16-year-old Alex Lee bagging groceries in Target, resulting in “Alex from Target” being searched on Google more than Justin Bieber and Nash Grier since this whole thing began.

Lee went from 144 Twitter followers to more than 100,000 overnight and is now over 730,000. His Instagram account has more than 2.4 million followers — all because one girl took a picture and posted it on Twitter.

This went so viral that he even made an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” He had turned down several interviews with other magazines, newspapers and TV shows, but Alex appearing on “Ellen” shows his good character.

During the interview, the naive kid seemed a bit shy and awestruck. He didn’t know what to make of it and still isn’t quite sure why he is famous.

Unfortunately, however, with hundreds of thousands of fans, there will undoubtedly come quite a few haters.

Lee has been on the receiving end of nasty remarks, ranging from being called ugly to “a nobody that doesn’t deserve any fame.” The worst, though, have been the death threats.

One Twitter user explicitly said, “Alex from Target, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

The kid hasn’t done anything other than his job and had his life threatened over it. There were even rumors he was fired over the picture.

The few bad tweets aside, Lee has taken this fame gracefully, and while he admitted he doesn’t like to go out in public now, he plans to use his fame to help other kids who have been bullied online. He has also been helping his mother’s nonprofit organization, Just Love International, which helps kids in South America who lost their parents.

It’s great that he has put a positive spin on this, especially to help others, but this could’ve turned out different.
“Alex from Target” quickly started a trend of photos snapped of people just doing their jobs — good-looking people from Starbucks or T-Mobile and not so good-looking people from Wal-Mart. “Daquan from Staples” is a favorite because of the ridiculous pose and face the guy has going for him.

Some of them are funny, but the trend is mostly creepy. If “Alex from Target” had decided instead to sue, he would have every right to. Not only is he underage, this is also a huge invasion of privacy. He was lucky the reaction was mainly positive, because if someone had posted the picture saying something hurtful, it could’ve escalated into a really bad situation.

If he is being bullied for being called cute or just having fame for no reason, could you imagine the overwhelming reaction if the girl who posted the picture had said, ‘ew, look at this kid,’ instead of the actual caption, “YOOOOOOO”?

These people you see online are actual people. This sudden attention would be overwhelming for anybody. No doubt some would love this, but others might not want their life forced into the limelight.

I’m glad this worked out the way it did, and I hope Lee has the perseverance to keep up the positivity toward this, but if you want to make your own version of “Alex from Target,” I would recommend asking the person for a picture first.

Email Amanda Little at

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