A couple of weeks ago, one picture from an Iowa wedding was posted on the image-sharing site, Imgur. It went to Reddit and then viral. This is the photo:

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The consensus was that this horrible couple in their coral dress and blue button-down had stolen the thunder of the blushing bride and her groom, and what a terrible thing to do! This scofflaw proposed at someone else’s wedding, and his betrothed had the nerve to clutch her heart right in front of the bride? There was no context for the photo. No one thought through why someone might propose at someone else’s wedding, in front of the bride and groom’s table. Sure, they could just be garden-variety narcissists. But there’s also a distinct possibility something else was going on here.

And, indeed it was.

“Any girl’s wedding nightmare,” read the caption on Imgur, which has since been viewed more than 2.5 million times — and been labeled, in various corners of the Internet, as “selfish,” “blood-boiling” and “so f***ing rude.”

Except, as is so often true on the Internet, this one 960-by-690-pixel picture did not, in fact, tell the whole story. The “wedding guests” rudely upstaging someone else’s wedding are actually the sister and future brother-in-law of the bride. And according to the New York Daily News, who spoke to the Iowa family over the weekend, it was all the bride’s idea. That’s not a grimace you’re seeing — she’s trying not to cry.

Quoth the sister of the bride, whose groom was also in cahoots:

“My fiancé told her he didn’t want to ruin their day and she insisted it would only make it better!” the woman named Megan told the Daily News. “The groom of the wedding actually held my engagement ring the entire trip! Everyone in the Reddit picture knew the proposal was going to happen except for me!”

At the New York Daily News link, there’s a picture of the elation of both newly engaged and bride and groom alike.

So, these poor people were turned into nationally known pariahs for a short period of time for the sin of running this idea past the bride and groom, getting the go-ahead, and making everyone’s night doubly happy. It’s indicative of a couple things— our society’s rush to judgment, the sloppiness social media can exhibit with facts. But it also shows a disturbing and increasing trend in which anyone with a social media presence—or, in this case, just a photo that ended up on the Internet— can be treated like a public figure.

This photo is the equivalent of a campaign gaffe. But these people weren’t running a campaign, and there’s no reason, even if they were boorish enough to get engaged at someone else’s wedding without asking, that this should make any difference to any of us. We’re not asking them to run anything and they didn’t ask for the spotlight. But here they are suffering the same fate as a Gary Hart and Donna Rice, undeservedly, without ever having called the thunder down on themselves.

It’s something Guy Benson and I address at length in our new book, “End of Discussion,” which is available for pre-order, here. Debate is getting more and more toxic for everyone, disagreement more risky, thanks to the weaponization of outrage on social media. It has the effect of turning political debates into contests over who can be most offended at his opponent’s -ism of the day. But it has a cascading effect on regular Americans who know the Internet’s and media’s ire can be turned on them— in this case, without reason and without warning.