Seth Heringer: Smartphones Turn Some Into Lazy Spectators and Citizen Papparazzi, Big Problem


Image Credit: Brian Gratwicke

In an emergency, would you help someone — or just share a pic or video of the situation online? You’d be surprised …

Image Credit: Brian Gratwicke

Recently, I was flying back to LA when a drunk guy caused such a ruckus on the plane that, when we landed, cops dragged him off the plane and into their flashing vehicles.

That’s not the weird part. The fact that he struggled to free himself from a couple of guys who tried to restrain him was to be expected. My beef is more that people didn’t try to help.

Rather, they were busy snapping pics and making videos of the event. That’s sad.

And it is disturbing. Here we had a situation with passengers struggling with an out-of-control drunken man, a bleeding flight attendant and a handful of passengers trying to help.

Many more passengers, rather than helping, stood by with their smartphones and took pics and videos to upload to their various social accounts. Has it really come to this?

There is something deeply wrong with this picture.

Not only have we lost the common decency of helping fellow humans here, but this incident made me think that momentary notoriety on Facebook or Youtube is more important than helping or assisting other human beings in times of danger. It’s like tweeting that your house is on fire — while you’re sitting on the sofa.

Only two men helped us on that flight and here’s the thanks they got: smartphones shoved in their faces as they restrained the guy in his seat.

Did they want to be photographed? Nobody asked. Nobody cared. What mattered was to get the pics so that they could tell a story first and capture fleeting, meaningless fame online. What is wrong with people?

As much as I love technology and the benefits it brings, technology comes at a price — and this example is one that shows the steep cost it carries. People now automatically document rather than intervene or participate.

Sure, there are things photographers and videographers need to document. That includes alleged police abuse of the arrested, government atrocities and criminal acts, just for starters.

I admit I also tweeted and posted about this after we landed and were waiting on the plane while the cops took the guy in. That was wrong. It’s now the instinct, though, and I have to fight it. I know it is tempting. We all need to buck that…

Bottom line: Be a human, not a fame monger. Help first, film later. It is really a disturbing trend. Have you ever seen something like this? Comment below and let’s talk about it.

This story, by the way, found its way online at news story. This only adds fuel to the fire of this situation, which looks like it’s out of control.



  • Smart phones and mobile devices (like my iPod Touch) with built-in cameras are so easy to conceal, someone can sneak up on you in an unguarded moment, take a picture of you and post it ALL OVER the inter-connected networks.

  • Seth, it got me thinking what happens when the alleged perp/perp is a minor. Law enforcement is not allowed to reveal the identity in such cases. In a situation when someone tweets about the incident and it goes viral, would that not be an invasion of privacy if the person is a minor?

  • @Joy That is a great point. It would be interesting to be in that situation and see how people respond. Would they show more restraint? Let’s hope so.

  • Seth – I agree, there’s something wrong here, but do you think all of the people that were recording would have helped had they not had phones? In my experience, Americans avoid confrontation. I suspect many/most/all of the folks taking pictures and video would have been sitting there gawking without them.

    This is not to condone their actions – we certainly need to be more willing to step up and take care of each other. Your post does raise some other issues, as Joy pointed out above.

    I do, however, appreciate the citizen journalism overall. Any media of an event in progress is better than commentary and interviews afterwards.

  • Who’s fault is it though? Us for using the tools or the tabloids for paying money for that type of garbage? I blame reality TV, the real world, big brother, jersey shore, and more importantly the producers of such shows for contributing to the overall blissfully ignorant nanny coddled couch society kids are being brought up in these days.

  • It certainly is sad when people think it’s more important to take pictures than helping out… What has this world come to?

    People also get real mean when they have opportunities to take pictures with their smartphones and the ability to upload them instantly: yesterday I was looking through some pictures on Twitter taken by a woman – she’d taken them without the peoples knowledge and commented as such “No”, “Ugly” and other less flattering comments.

    I’m guessing she wouldn’t think it was funny if someone did that to her.

    Also, great read.