Dear Ms. Smartphone: This week you posted on your Instagram a YouTube video on selfies that went viral in November (2019). It’s about a man with a selfie stick that falls in the water. It was funny, but honestly, what is the difference between your own repost and say an edited short on Quibi TV? Russ, San Francisco.
Dear Russ: Correct, I seldom post videos or watch Quibi because they require that I hand over my most precious resources: my time, my attention, and possibly, my privacy. But, the post you mention is more content on selfie-sticks and our isolated future. In 2014, the sales of self-sticks peaked and my prediction is that they will resurge, as we reach out to strangers less and less.
The video you mentioned shows an unidentified man in a Santa Hat obliviously stepping into a Venice, (Italy) canal during the “Alta Aqua,” or high water. He is looking at his phone screen, steps off the sidewalk, and plunges under. In this four second video, only the selfie stick and his phone remain above the water line.
EEK! Which Version Is THE Real?
I am happy to tell you that the plunge was not fatal and selfie-man emerged a micro-second later. But, and here’s the point, I know this because I found an earlier version of the video that was 17 seconds long. In a 26 second version of the video, the Santa hatted man pops right back up, and says a few words to a friend, seemingly the one filming him. This version is the first I can find online, it was posted about a week earlier, and it is from the UK Daily Mail.
The shorter version you saw, just four seconds long, also got posted on Facebook and it gets all the laughs. There was a lot of back discussion on Reddit of whether the whole video was staged (after all, someone is assiduously shooting selfie man) and in the public comments there is a small remark, in Italian, that the video is Chioggiotti stunt (see image). I also tried to contact the person who posted the shortened version of the video on Reddit, but no surprise, he did not message back. I want to know who edited the video…and why!
Fake News or Amateurs?
Maybe we only have attention spans of four second now, particularly on Instagram or TikTok. The problem is that the fuller story has been truncated and it’s easy for the naive viewer to reach the wrong conclusions. Why is this relevant? Fake news doesn’t have to originate in made-up events, it just has to be real events that lead us, often because of what is left unsaid, to misinterpretation or wrong conclusions.
Seeing “Aqua Alta” from someone’s homemade video is, in many ways, as powerful as the news clip from a professional network TV crew (I personally like the news shots of suitcases floating like gondolas down the Grand Canal). But, when we are in the field as amateur journalists, we need to be there with a sense of responsibility. When we post: who is taking the picture, why are they telling the story, and is this the full story or one with edits?
We are all amateur journalists as the selfie-stick makes a rebound. I’m not putting down funny, I’m just saying that we also need to bake in reliability and trust as we edit and post our experiences in our brave new post Covid world.