I truly believe that the widespread accessibility of video technology has ultimately been bad for society. Maybe it’s because I live in the country with the most CCTV cameras on Earth, but the fact that everyone can record each other at any given moment with all the effort of pulling their phone out of their pockets makes me deeply uncomfortable. That they often do so only compounds this feeling.
It used to be when a bipolar person started causing a scene on a crowded bus, or when two homeless guys started beating the shit out of each other on a subway cart, people sat there and pretended it wasn’t happening. Now they document it for posterity’s sake and include every other bystander in their impromptu project. People have gone from pussies to voyeurs in the space of a couple of years, and it’s not a healthy trajectory.
It’s not just video; we love taking pictures of strangers, too. Living in London—a vastly overcrowded city with enormous economic and cultural gaps between individuals—it’s both fascinating and depressing to see people attempting to reconcile their deep-seated senses of social isolation with the “no eye contact with strangers” protocol that their environment demands. A good example would be “women who eat on tubes,” a (now closed) Facebook group that features, as the name suggests, covertly taken photographs of women eating on the London underground. It garnered considerable outrage—predictably, it was taken up as a feminist issue—but I don’t blame anybody for feeling violated because some creepy dickhead, male or female, decided to take a picture of them while they wolfed down a sandwich during the morning rush hour. The only thing more disgusting is the idea of eating on the tube itself; it’s fucking filthy down there.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to be photographed or videoed by strangers. I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, so don’t take my fucking picture. A lot of people will argue, “Well, it’s legal to film/photograph in public,” but so what? I couldn’t care less what the law says about this. As a matter of fact, I once knocked the phone out of another man’s hand because, halfway through an altercation, he decided that he was going to pull out his smartphone and start gathering video evidence in case I went ahead and tried anything. I told him not to film me, I gave him fair warning, and he went ahead and continued. So I slapped the bastard. I’m pretty sure his phone broke, as he certainly seemed like the type who would follow up on that kind of thing and I’ve yet to face any repercussions for it. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the horrified look on his ugly, impotent face as his phone hit the ground and he realized that now I could curb stomp him without a working camera in sight. I would encourage anybody being filmed against their wishes to do the same.
The only thing I despise more than seeing “OH MY GOD, LOOK WHAT THIS IDIOT’S WEARING” pictures plastered across social media are YouTube pranks. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not against practical jokes in general. If you want to spike the water cooler at work with ipecac or tell your boyfriend that you’re pregnant just to see the look on his face, you have my blessing. What I can’t stand are the cynically manufactured videos that dominate YouTube, with names like “HILARIOUS WATERGUN PRANK” and “TELLING PEOPLE THEYRE UGLY PRANK LOL” that are aimed primarily at children, because kids are fucking idiots and will click on anything if there’s a guy pulling a wacky face in the thumbnail.
Now, when TV networks shoot pranks in public, it’s generally a benign affair because 1) ninety percent of the time the pranks are faked for legal purposes, and 2) everyone depicted is asked to sign a release form or else has their face blurred out when the show is aired. YouTube pranksters, equally hungry for ad revenue but unbound by the same sponsor-enforced codes of ethics as their television peers, don’t adhere to the same standards. They walk right up to members of the public, harass them, and upload the results for rent money.
A prime example would be OckTV’s “Taking Peoples Cigarettes Prank!” Watch as this pair of sickly looking piss-twinks engage in a contrived back-and-forth before—wait for it—walking up to random people and taking their cigarettes from them! Never mind who these people are, what experiences with being personally invaded they might have had, or the fact that they don’t know the couple of greasy looking post-Guido dipshits snatching their Newports out of their hands; what they’re doing is perfectly legal, remember? My favorite part is when “Sammy,” the black gentleman with the camouflage sleeves, warns retard number two not to “do that ever again” before his aggressor points to the camera as if to instantly legitimize the entire exchange. “Ho-ho, you thought I was just some guy? Correction; I’m some guy…with a YouTube channel!” It’s just a pity that these pig fuckers never get punched in the face for accosting total strangers like this.
Oh wait—they do! Feast your eyes on this wonderful, wonderful video of some guy getting pasted for playing the part of the thief in a “STEALING PEOPLE’S PHONES” prank. To sum it up briefly, he hobbles over to a stranger on crutches before asking him to hold them while he does something, at which point he snatches the phone out of the man’s hand before tearing away on foot and being chased after by the man and his friends. “OK, OK, ha-ha,” he explains, “I’m filming for my friend’s show. I’m fake stealing people’s phones.” This apparently does not diffuse the temper of one member of the group, who proceeds to punch the idiot right in his smug, sweaty face. “It’s a joke, dude” he whimpers after catching one in the chops. It’s just a shame the guy didn’t stab him instead. Despite everything I’ve said, I’d like to see more of these videos being made, as that would make for a greater chance of somebody being murdered for bothering the wrong person in this fashion, and given the rising popularity of “pranking the hood” videos, that very well may happen.