Chicagoans, sporting unconventional hairstyles or unflattering clothing, transgender individuals who may not pass very well as the gender with which they identify, homeless individuals falling asleep in strange positions.
At least two, if not all of these things are moments of vulnerability that should not be exploited. However, the super-popular Facebook page People of the CTA exposes exactly these types of mortifying incidences.
People of the CTA is a page where Chicagoans are encouraged to submit “crazy pictures of people on the CTA and crazy stories about freaky people and smelly bums” according to the page’s information section. The most bothersome part is that the photos on this site are usually taken without the subject’s permission.
The page has reached 113,794 likes as of April 23. 113,794 people think that maliciously appropriating a person’s likeness is entertaining or funny. It’s not funny, and it carries serious ethical and legal issues.
Julia Sheridan, 19, a marketing and international business major thinks that “the page is fun to look at, and see some of the fun crazy outfits or things people on the L do.”
While students may find the People of the CTA hilarious, Bastiaan Vanacker who teaches Media Law as well as Ethics and Communication does not.
“It’s [the page] basically mocking people,” Vanacker said. “You’re making fun of people.”
This page was founded on April 7, 2010 and moderators describe the page as a place to “add crazy pictures of people on the CTA and crazy stories about freaky people and smelly bums.”
Many of the photos on the page display homeless individuals in various states of undress or sleeping on the CTA. Other photos display people who are clearly having a bad day. There’s even a photo of someone with a lap full of vomit.
“In ethics we have something that’s called virtue ethics where we say an ethical person is a person who does a virtuous thing,” Vanacker said. “You have to try to be a decent human being.”
People of the CTA has even begun to sell merchandise in the form of t-shirts, with a cartoon of someone in a typical People of the CTA situation. One shirt has the image of an African American man, with headphones around his neck, and a keg in a pushcart.
There could possibly be legal ramifications to taking photos of someone without their consent. Misappropriation is the unauthorized use of another’s name, likeness or identity without that person’s permission. It is a felony, a crime punishable by a prison sentence. People of the CTA needs to be careful about the image of a person on their merchandise or they could be sued for misappropriation.
“I think it would be best to get their consent before the photos are posted online,” Sheridan said. “Still, some people wear certain things for the shock value and should not be surprised if people take photos.”
Sleeping LUC, a Facebook page catered to Loyola students and not affiliated with the university or its administration, posts pictures taken by Loyola students of other Loyola students asleep around campus. The page has even gotten to the point where students race each other to send in photos of their friends asleep.
Joe Cortese, a 20-year-old criminal justice major with a minor in psychology of Crime and Justice, said he laughed hysterically when he saw a photo of himself on the page.
“My friend who posted that has been teasing me about it for a while cause it does look kinda funny,” Cortese said. “It doesn’t bother me that anyone can see it cause I’m not highly prone to feelings of embarrassment.”
The page was created on February 28, 2013 by Loyola students, and reaches ages 18-24 with only 502 likes as of May 3. With other Loyola based Facebook pages getting thousands of likes, such as LUC Love Notes, which has 2,543 likes as of May 3, it seems strange that Sleeping LUC has such a low number.
A lot of the photos displayed students in contorted sleeping positions. Still, everyone seems to enjoy the page and do not seem harbor ill feelings towards the page or its creator. Some students know when not to send a photo in.
“It depends on the situation, sometimes you just know not to take them but other times it’s appropriate and it’s just funny,” 20-year-old marketing student Hieu Dinh said. “For me, you should at least be that person’s good friend or so for you to do with without the person’s consent, obviously because they’re sleeping.”