LIVE: the more we watch, the less we care.

  • “Sony wants you to stream your whole life online.”
  • “Show off how marvelous your life is.”
  • “Stream your world live to Facebook using the ‘Social Live’ camera feature.”
  • “Fill YouTube with constant videos of your cat sleeping or your baby dribbling, thanks to the new Live on YouTube app.”

These are actual advertising slogans. If you use social media you’ll know live video streaming is being pushed pretty hard these days.

Facebook has changed its algorithms to ensure live videos appear in your notifications and fill your newsfeed. Sony, Apple and Samsung are falling over themselves to develop the necessary products to make live streaming even easier.

I expect the boffins who decide these things think that video will overtake text as the primary way we share stuff online at some time in the near future.

And of course it’s pitched to us as a way of boasting about our fabulous lives. Post a vid of you arriving at a big concert, or dancing at a music festival, or sailing on the harbor, or singing along to the radio on a road-trip with friends.

Everyone’s life is meant to look awesome online.

Except if it’s not.

 

On December 30 last year, a 12-year-old girl in Georgia live streamed her own suicide after telling the world that she had been sexually abused by a male member of her family.

The first 20 minutes of the 42 minute video show Katelyn Davis setting up her suicide and talking about her life. She then tells the world, “Goodbye” and removes the bucket she’s been standing on.  

The gruesome video ends with Katelyn hanging from a tree in front of her home.

For 20 minutes.

Investigations later revealed that Katelyn had been writing a blog titled “Diary of a Broken Doll.” In it she revealed the identity of her abuser. She also expressed suicidal thoughts. She said she was depressed. She described the poverty her family endured.

There’s such a vicious irony to the fact that a girl who felt so alone with her pain could share her life and, worse still, her death so publicly.

But no one was reading the diary of the Broken Doll.

No one cared.

Until the Broken Doll went Live.

Then the world took notice. Far too late. 

The diary of the Broken Doll contains sexual assault, child suicide, poverty, loneliness, despair. And it also reveals the horrors of a world where just about anything and everything is videoed and posted online.

 

Police brutality.

Terrorist attacks.

Murder.

Even rape.

When a group of teenagers recently posted a live video on Periscope titled “live sex” the right hand side of the screen was flooded with colorful hearts, indicating likes for the video. After thousands of people had viewed and liked it, it became clear a girl in the video was saying no. She was being raped.

And yet despite all the outrage, nothing changes. For all the videos of police brutality against people of color, nothing changes. This whole story will settle down and Katelyn Davis’ name will be forgotten. She’ll become “that girl who live streamed her suicide a while back”.

Facebook, Sony and YouTube might want us to stream every aspect of our lives online, but instead of increasing our interest in each other,  it only numbs us to the realities we observe. The end result seems to be a dreadful stupefying of the viewer, and an eroding of our capacity for empathy.

The more we watch the most horrific and intimate details of people’s lives being streamed the more desensitized to its horror or its intimacy we become. They become no more affecting to us than live streams from our party last weekend. Nothing horrifies us. Nothing is sacred. Nothing means anything.

 

Not the despair of an abused 12-year-old. Not the death of a black man in a police chokehold. Not the gang rape of a teenager. Not the drowning victims of a tsunami or a shell-shocked Syrian child.   

The screen both mediates their suffering and ameliorates for us all at once. It’s a medium that we’re told us bringing us together. But I suspect it is driving us all further apart. 

And then there’s poor, dear, little Katelyn Davis, the broken doll. God have mercy.

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The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Morling College or its affiliates and partners.

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3 thoughts on “LIVE: the more we watch, the less we care.

  1. I think you’re right, Michael. We get overwhelmed by all this constant noise, and we just half-tune it out. Then when we see something terrible we’re already moving onto the next thing, like we do with all the other things we watch or read online. I’m not saying being online is bad in and of itself, but I appreciate this idea of watching mindfully and deliberately, not just mindlessly streaming without caring. So sad for Katelyn Davis.

  2. Michael,
    This is tragic I was very stirred by this post as I am sure that those that read it were as well. This has been a concern of mine for many years and to be honest I have wanted to unplug from all social media. It is making us worse as a world. Instead of offering hope it stirs more hate and discontent. People feel compelled to post and to ” show” the world everything. This is so sad about this girl.

    I really wonder if we did not have the ability to post any videos if people at all if people would still act out the way they do.

    Consider the latest election. I have been through many. More hate, more cynicism regardless of the side that a person was on. But that is the point we are a people of “sides” now! We are better at ” posting” “venting” letting “our” “views” be known and we feel empowered by it. Rather than good, we have more divides, more hate, more division.

    Can the Lord be pleased with all of this really. One time He looked at mankind and was sorry He made us. I can not help but wonder if He feels that way today. Thankfully for Jesus we do have hope, but it is barely mentioned on line in contrast to what we see.

    James 3 Offers some great thoughts.

    Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
    17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of right

    This was great advice in the time it was written, and even better advice today.

    I have mentioned to people that if we had to write letters to people with pen and paper today to disagree with one another that very few letters would be written. Slow to speak and quick to listen come to mind. But when we have the ability to just say it right away or video right away we have nothing to restrain us.

    I am broken hearted for the world we live in. I am broken hearted at not just the division in our country but the division I see in the Kingdom of God. I am broken hearted for the seemingly expertise on all matters in our world and little of the Word of God. Jesus as you know lived in a time where slavery, women’s rights, sexuality etc were huge issues. But did he get involved with the politics of the day? We seem more concerned as Christians about what we are going to post next, or upload next on all these matters.

    Jesus changed the world by transforming hearts not by poking them with a stick. Should we not be searching the scriptures to see how to respond, how to weigh in, when to speak and when to be silent. Is it to late.

    When we are instructed to let your light shine, to shout from the rooftops, what should we be shouting.

    Instead of posting maybe more prayer
    Instead of Facebook live maybe really “live” with real people

    To be honest I struggle very much with what I see and hear, I want to lash out myself at times. These thoughts have been on my heart for sometime and I humbly offer them to you. You have no idea how much I admire who you are.

    While we hardly know each other, you and Alan have done so much to transform my life and walk with the Lord. I am indebted to you both for your gift your insights and willingness to share so freely with others.

    I am wanting to shout but struggle with how to say it.

    Humbly
    Jack Wolfe

  3. Its such a shame my heart breaks for dolly nobody cared about her i wish id have known her id have helped her i know what she was going through as i was raped when i was 14 and I’ve self harmed ever since and tried to kill myself twice but failed miserably. She was just a kid who needed help how could nobody have bothered to help her when she needed it the most!! R.I.P Dolly xxxx

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