Citizen Journalism has Gone Too Far

About a week ago, I had the luck to come across a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I visited Rihanna’s website just to check for updates on her new “Rated R” album (which just came out yesterday, I believe.)
As it turned out, I was just half an hour away from viewing a free, live performance broadcast from London, in which Rihanna would perform a medley of new and old songs.
I watched in anticipation while a large group of Rihanna fanatics crammed into the theatre, anxiously awaiting her arrival.
At the bottom of the webpage was two buttons, one for Facebook and one for Twitter, for fans to tweet about their excitement for the concert….

Then I saw the Twitter feed.

Thousands of people were saying the exact same thing under the #rihannalive hashtag.
“I’m so excited!”
“Where is Rihanna?”
“OMG SQUEE I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE!”
….you get the idea.

And then, just before the opening of the show, a stage manager came out and followed the as-usual theatrical precautions procedures. These are the exits, no flash photography, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And then, immediately as the lights went down…
Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash!
….wait. Did that guy not just say something along the lines of NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY?

And then, throughout the entire performance, looking out into the audience, you can see the luminous screens of cell phones and digital cameras.
And the Twitter feed was going nuts.

Now, if I were Ri-Ri, and was singing my heart out on stage, I would want my audience to be looking at me through their own eyes. Because no matter how much they record and document, what is seen and heard is what will stay in their memories. Viewing the world through a digital screen not only distorts your memory of unique events, but also does nothing good for your eyesight.

The September 11th attacks were best documented through the digital capabilities of the citizens of New York. Those that had the equipment and the safe angle were able to document this tragic event as it unfolded. Their perspectives made it personal and real to the world.

Yet a crowded auditorium full of people seeing the exact same thing, and recording it with phones and cameras with less-than-perfect sound and video quality, is absolutely unnecessary. When we search on YouTube for videos of Rihanna’s performance, we won’t get the professionally-recorded segments (though you can watch the ENTIRE thing on her website), we get amateur video, with blurry visuals and sound drowned out by screaming fans posted just because these people think it has some journalistic value. In reality, it just takes up space for more worthwhile and relevant videos.

I have decided to take an oath:
I solemnly promise to only record and broadcast those events that have relevance and newsworthiness.
I further promise to use sound judgment when making decisions as to what does and does not belong on the Internet.
I finally promise to give priority to experiencing the world through my own eyes and ears, as they will never mislead me like a piece of digital technology could.

I encourage you all to take this oath as well.

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