The unavoidable danger of live streaming

Published 10:15 am Monday, April 17, 2017

When I look at old photographs or home movies, I see happy times. There are smiles and people acting goofy. There are snapshots of a few tears at weddings. Very rarely did people waste film on snapping shots of bad times. Photographs of family arguments or videos aren’t usually part of a person’s family album.

People generally want to remember the good times.

Thank goodness my teenage years were prior to social media and many of the dumb things I did are not documented for eternity.

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Then came blogs. Everyone had a blog. But for the most part, people shared personal journeys, random posts about their daily life or recipes. MySpace came along and people now had a way of telling the world whatever they felt or whatever they’re doing —  what they had for dinner or photos of their families.

And almost overnight, people’s lives became open books.

Social media sites continued to pop up, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all offered the same ability to share your life with friends and depending on your settings, the world.

Humans are imperfect. Let’s face it, we do a lot of dumb things. For the most part, people still like to post the good stuff — the kids doing cute things or funny memes — but we’ve all seen what happens now with political posts.

However, while some Facebook fights are annoying and some may not care what others are eating for dinner, for a long time most of it was all pretty innocent or non-eventful.

It didn’t stay that way for long.

Most sites now have a feature to “go live” where you can use your tablet or phone to film yourself and allow people from all the world watch what you’re doing. A lot of great stuff can be found. I’ve watched debates and friends’ weddings (when I couldn’t attend) and on Saturday, I watched the beauty of a gorgeous giraffe give birth to her long-awaited baby boy.

However, wherever there is good, there is also bad.

Last week, 50 or more teenagers watched in horror as Malachi Hemphill, 13, accidentally shot and killed himself while streaming live on Instagram while playing with a gun that no one seems to know how he came to have in his possession.

Easter Sunday was marred for hundreds who watched Steve Stephens in Ohio shoot and kill a 74-year-old man because he was mad at his girlfriend, also streaming live on Facebook.

In January, four teens beat and tortured a mentally ill man to death while filming live on Facebook. In June, a 14-year-old Miami girl hung herself while live on Facebook.

In the years before the internet, those tragic and violent acts would only make the headlines in a newspaper or a 30-second spot on the evening news. Now, those images will forever be available for families to have to watch and fear that one day the viral video shows up on their news feed years later, as videos and images often have a way of doing.

Like most things, tools can be used for good, and for the horrific.

There’s no chance it will stop anytime soon. The rest of us will just keep posting happy photos and going “Live” during a gender reveal party or graduation ceremony and hopefully in years to come, the bad will fade away into cyberspace somewhere.

Or maybe it’s time to stop live streaming on social media sites and go back to scrapbooking our memories —  the ones worth remembering and sharing.

Alyssa Schnugg is Senior Writer at the Oxford Eagle. Email her at