Hello from the other side


On 6th March 2019, three Croatian officers intercepted a group of migrants at the Croatian/Bosnian border. While they were detained, the policemen forced the migrants to chant the words “Dinamo Zagreb” with one of the officers duly filming everything with his cellphone. After the deed, the migrants were released to return to Bosnia, crossing the border from where they came from. When the footage was released online, Croatian police authority published an announcement that disciplinary action will be initiated against the three policemen; the officer who filmed the scene was set to be laid off.

The entire sequence of events is very reminiscent of those eerie individuals, who – while wildly driving their cars – are filming the speedometers recording insanely high speeds, and then share the videos of their “stud-like” driving on social media, under their own name. Or abhorrent rape cases circulating the news in the past few years, when rapists and co-perpetrators recorded entire scenes of forced sex and published them online.

Feels something is severely out of place, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it make more sense for those who break the law – notwithstanding the severity of the crime or misdemeanor – do everything in their power to destroy incriminating evidence that link them to the crime? What is more, those who excelled at being cunning, stealthy and uncatchable were even revered to an extent by the society. We all have at one point in time rooted for the con-artist who kept outsmarting the authorities over and over again, managing to narrowly slip the iron hands of justice.  

And where are we now?! Planning and perpetrating a crime with the idea to create publishable media content, with a sole purpose of attracting attention, receiving likes, shares and reaching the desired popularity threshold? It seems to be of little relevance that actions undertaken for the footage are illegal, forbidden and punishable by law – either by paying a fine or spending time behind the bars. What strikes as obvious, however, is that despite the fact that the cost of fame exponentially increases on a daily basis, more and more people are willing to pay the price.

While it is true that majority will be ashamed and shocked by foregoing behavior, it should not come with a surprise anymore. Sharing and distributing content we ourselves have created was never easier or faster, blurring the lines between the real life and the one that exists online – increasingly subjecting the everyday reality to the virtual one.

At the very start of the smartphone era, phone cameras were fit to create short video clips and photos that one could only share with others directly and in person. This was due to mobile networks being technologically unfit to transfer large quantities of data. Even when this option was enabled, sending any photo or video content was lengthy, onerous and complicated. As technology progressed, capacities increased and sharing visual content turned to being swift and simple. This makes every one of us not only the audio-visual creator but a media channel that distributes the homemade content: akin to a cable TV channel (for those who still have TVs at home).

To keep the comparison running, one can choose from a variety of channels and genres. Options include news, sports, entertainment, kids’ channel, movies etc. Same patterns and logic can be found on our personal media platforms. We record and share photos of the good food we eat, amazing places we visit, kids that we play with, puppies and kittens we pet. We record parties we go to and share footage of ourselves dancing and singing. Protests and political meetings we attend, politicians that we listen to are all recorded, shared and commented positively or negatively – depending on the side we chose.

At this point in time it simply isn’t odd that a selected few prefer different genres, turning lives of many into an action packed thriller/horror movie, while regarding this to be a completely acceptable behavior. While not necessarily surprising, this is a reason for concern. When a role is assigned and alter ego takes over, some other rules become relevant. Whether something is allowed from either ethical or legal standpoint simply falls off the radar, as long as it draws more attention, increases visibility and drives popularity up. In case the latter curve shows a steady upwards progression, the questionable action will take place, without qualms or second thoughts.

It seems that turning dreams into reality was never more achievable, in spite of the chosen category: nightmare or a fairy tale. Christchurch shooter from New Zealand, killed 50 people in two different mosques mid March, all the while live filming every detail of the heinous crime with a phone camera attached to the helmet. How many have streamed and watched the events unfold in real time is still unknown, but the 17-minute-long footage in the first hours following the massacre was shared on social media, up until it was fully banned. The question that itches the throat and leaves a sour taste in the mouth is how many of those watching have perceived the footage to be nothing else but another crime or horror story that can easily be tracked on Netflix or HBO.

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