99 of 100 photographs or videos that are taken with an iPhone are useless.
Half of them are selfies. A quarter of them are blurry photos of some landmark like the Empire State Building that will inevitably find its way to Instagram. The rest document your Friday and Saturday nights, your vacations, your home cooked meals and your cat.
And one out of 100 will bare witness to a crime.
That one percentile alone makes camera phones not only a welcome addition into society, but makes our world a better place.
With the prevalence of smart phones, and easy accessibility to its video recorder or camera, it takes very little effort to film or photograph something. As a result, anybody or anything is subject to being recorded at any moment. And that includes people who are partaking in illegal or immoral activity.
In the past, exposing wrongdoers relied on witnesses who could go on record to tell other people what they saw. And while that still exposes the truth, it just doesn’t have the same effect. It’s one thing to read about it, and another to see it.
Take Ray Rice for instance. His domestic abuse last year was caught on video, not by a phone, but a security camera. While it was initially reported in the media that he knocked his wife unconscious, people didn’t really react very strongly. But when TMZ released the video, all of a sudden Rice was the most hated man in America.
When people actually could see Ray Rice punching his wife, it produced in everybody a visceral reaction that really processed the true maliciousness of the act.
Many other people are also being victimized by videotape, thanks to smart phones.
The irony is that sometimes it is the perpetrators who expose the video, like in one of the first major examples of this, when an elderly bus monitor, Karen Klein, was bullied by four teenage students on a bus in upstate New York in 2012. The video, filmed and posted on social media by one of the bullies, went viral, causing a tidal wave of sympathy for Klein. People felt so badly that an online donation campaign raised $650,000 for Klein.
And without the camera phone, no one would have known.
Then there’s the video footage of Eric Garner, who was strangled to death by a cop in Staten Island. It somehow was not enough to inflict justice on the police officer, but it was enough to enact social awareness and change.
More recently, an entire fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was booted from campus after a video caught them chanting a racist song on a bus.
There’s a lot to dislike about the emergence of iPhones. But their ability to record at the click of a button is making the world a better place.
It’s not to say that everything is being filmed. But let’s just say that the amount of douchebaggery that is being filmed, compared to 10 years ago, has increased significantly. And just by knowing that, maybe it will stop some people from being morons.
It probably won’t.
The biggest lesson? Whether you’re in an elevator, a bus, or live in the room in the house across the street from me whose window is opposite to mine, you are always being watched.