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A DUNKIN’ DONUTS WORKER in New Jersey used a coffee mug to beat a thief away from the shop’s cash register. According to the worker, what inspired him to fight?

A. His boss had ordered him to confront criminals.
B. The thief had taunted him.
C. He had just completed a self-defense class.
D. If he didn’t fight, he would look like a coward on video.

Correct answer: D.

The worker, Dustin Hoffmann, said he was worried about how he would look if the shop’s security video hit YouTube. “What was going through my mind at that point was that the security tape is either going to show me run away and hide in the office or whack this guy in the head, so I just grabbed the cup and clocked the guy pretty hard,” he said.

— AOL News, December 14, 2007

Who’d have thunk it? YouTube, a crime-fighting tool.
If anything, I considered YouTube a crime-committing tool.

The crime? Vanity in the third degree.

“Hi. I wrote this song, and all my friends really, like, like it? So, here it goes. Hope you don’t hate it.”
All those short videos of teenage angst and middle-age remorse, of girls playing acoustic guitars, of guys playing electric guitars, of pillow fights and silly pet tricks and conspiracy monologues.
But it turns out YouTube is a force for good.

Imagine the headlines if we all lived our lives as if our next action could be caught on YouTube.

TEENAGER SURRENDERS SUBWAY SEAT TO ELDERLY WOMAN. A 17-year-old male in New York City today got up from his seat on the subway as a female senior citizen entered the car.

“Here,” he said. “I get off at the next stop.”

Al Paceno did not get off at the next stop, nor at the stop after that. In fact, his destination was 18 stops away. “I just said that,” he said, “so she didn’t feel weird taking it.” Asked why he offered the woman his seat, Paceno responded, “I didn’t want to look like a complete jerk on YouTube.”

MOTORIST STOPS AT PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK TO LET CHILD AND MOTHER WALK ACROSS STREET. A man driving a 2004 Toyota Camry in Washington, D.C., braked at a crosswalk to allow a woman and her three-year- old son to cross a busy intersection. Police records indicate that the episode was the first time in the history of the nation’s capital that a motorist stopped to let a pedestrian pass.

“They got those cameras that give you tickets,” said Jack Nickolson, 47, a resident of the District of Columbia. “I wondered, ‘What if they are also filming for YouTube?’ I didn’t want the whole world to see me plowing over a mother and her kid. Know what I mean?”

SCIENTISTS REPORT MARKED DECREASE IN PUBLIC RHINOTILLEXIS. The act of excavating objects from your nose with your finger is on the decline in public places, according to a recent study by researchers at Harvard University. The six-month report showed a 70 percent drop from the year before in the habit formally known as rhinotillexis, or more commonly as nose picking.

“The primary reason for the reduction,” said lead researcher Brad Pick, “is the oft-stated fear of being shown doing the activity on YouTube.”

SO, I’M THINKING of instituting YouTube as a behavior-modification tool in our house. Hide some cameras. Let the family know that if they mess up, their actions will be uploaded to the Internet for the world to see. The plan is already working, and I haven’t even purchased the cameras. When I told my wife, Jessica, about the Dunkin’ Donuts guy, she responded, “Maybe I’ll finally go to the doctor.”

“Huh?” I said.

“I don’t want to risk your putting me on YouTube, snoring,” she said.

Before that moment, it had never occurred to me to expose her house-rattling nostril noise to the world. Nor had I been pushing her to do anything to deal with the problem. I was content to simply mercilessly tease her.

I didn’t know she had even considered going to a doctor for her snoring. But that may be because I don’t listen well. Or so she says. At least I think she says that. How would I know, if I don’t listen well?

“I shouldn’t tell you that,” she said, “because then it could end up in a column, and I would not want that.”

I studied her expression to determine whether she was:

A. Serious
B. Semiserious
C. Kidding
D. Actively giving me column fodder

My answer: D.

There is a chance my answer is wrong. In that case, don’t go looking for me in an Internet video. I won’t be in one. That’s because I’ll be the guy doing everything he can to stay out of harm’s way.