Life slips away while you’re filming it on your phone
Some friends of mine had lunch on Saturday with a mate who spent so much time artfully composing photos of the gathering to post on Facebook they never got to have an actual conversation. It was as if my friends were just attractive extras, hired to play a part in this bloke’s nicely curated published version of his excellent life.
I’ve also written before about paying hundreds of dollars for a great experience only to miss it because you can’t bring yourself to switch off your iPhone. It’s a modern curse. And in cases like these the greatest danger is your friends will be busy next time you suggest a photo-shoot, neatly disguised as a catch-up.
But what happens when the urge to document an event gets in the way of saving someone’s life? There is a terrible story out of the flood-affected Queensland town of Roma this morning about about a woman who was swept away by raging waters while six brave, still-connected-to-reality men tried desperately to save her.
They did save Jane Sheahan’s son Darcy but were unable to reach her. One of her would-be rescuers Blair Humphries said a dozen people stood watching the frantic efforts to avert disaster, some of them filming the event on their phones.
You could call it “citizen journalism”, or “bearing witness”. There are cases when footage shot by onlookers has served the public interest, such as video of the aftermath of the Christmas Island boat crash, and certainly when it’s proven brutal political subjugation.
But it’s not clear what good purpose people standing on the levy in Roma had in shooting some dodgy video of a boy being ripped from the arms of his mother, never to see her again. It’s beyond contemplation.
In the effort to look at the positive, maybe the amateur camera operators were hoping they would capture a great good news story, about how six men managed to pluck a mother and her son from the water, and it just didn’t turn out that way. But what were they planning on doing with the video?
Do you put it on your Facebook page? Ring the Seven news desk and offer to sell it to them? Or has it just become a hip reflex to hit record when anything vaguely interesting happens and think about what to do with the footage later.
Maybe we need to come up with some accepted parameters for this sort of thing. It should start with film your own disaster, but generally not someone else’s. For example, if you find yourself aboard the Costa Concordia as it lists from side to side, that would probably provide some ripper viewing for your friends once you’re safely back on dry land.
Someone else’s grave peril, however, so perhaps the polite thing to do is to try to help them before shooting your next Facebook hit.
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