When I was As a kid, one of my plans was to appear on some kind of candid video show. I dimly realized the “App Camera” was a phenomenon of my parents’ generation or maybe my grandparents, but I dreamed of “America’s Funniest Home Video,” or even just… a spot on the local news. In addition to making me famous, this look also shows my irresistible charm. As a child with an unusual sense of self – one who used the word “ignorance” a lot, if that gives you some insight – I was hoping a candid video could show me my real person: likable, quick thinker, possibly possessing of some unexplored athletic ability. The best part of this plan is that there’s nothing I can do to promote it; By definition, I have to wait for the camera to detect me. I know the possibility of such a thing happening is extraordinary. In the 1990s, people weren’t just filming children on the street.
In the 2020s, these conditions are gone. Thanks to smartphones and social media, people are constantly taking videos of each other, by accident and on purpose. Authentic video is no longer a small television medium and has become a historical force. The whole news cycle turns it on. In some cases, it has the power to start riots and end careers, but in most cases it has the power to annoy people. In the same way that the invention of cell phones made loud calls in a restaurant, smartphones have made public filming a mild but widespread nuisance. We are still the protagonists of our lives, but we now also run the risk of being side characters in other people’s Instagram stories. And this change has happened to all of us, like it or not.
Our series of disturbing essays on how much kids love phones tend to ignore who gave them the phone in the first place.
Recently I have seen eight seconds video capture this problem in its most extreme form. A boy and a girl, apparently of high school age, were entering the Panda Express when a third teenager with blond hair stopped them in the doorway. He carries with him the energy of a hustler or an interviewer on the street, and the pair are temporarily frozen, caught between suspicion and politeness. It’s a space where things can go both ways. “Hey, wait a minute, forgive me – I have something very important to ask you,” the blond boy said to the girl. “The moment I saw you, my eyes just – oh, God, I love you, could you please – bleagh! ” “Blagh” is the sound he makes when the other boy punches him in the face.
Some elements of this video, well, stand out. The hitman wears overalls and a yellow striped shirt, eerily reminiscent of one of the gang outfits from “The Warriors.” He seems to be a nampaw, and it looks like he threw a punch before. But perhaps most remarkable was the moment of apparent resignation he and his girlfriend shared when they realized what the blonde boy was up to. Around the time he reached “my eyes”, she turned away and stepped inside, while Overalls Kid calmly placed her smoothie on the ground in preparation to put her interlocutor in her mouth. The sound of the impact smelled of flesh. The video ends with both stumbling out of frame, Blond Kid spinning and Overalls Kid taking another hit. It’s a well-cut action that rewards repeat views, but it leaves me with one question: How do we feel about that punch?
I think we can agree that a punch wouldn’t be justified if Blond Kid confessed honestly. But he doesn’t. He was declaring his love while an unidentified fourth party recorded the whole thing, presumably as part of an internet challenge to “hit another guy’s girlfriend”. In this context, he is using others as props, a bad behavior that society should discourage. But what are we willing to tolerate to discourage it? Our collective culture is just beginning to dictate how we feel about this type of activity, which is invented by new technology and will only become more common in the future.
As a middle-aged man, I think of technology like that belongs to the kids, but it doesn’t. Smartphones, YouTube, TikTok and the like were brought to market by adults and subsequently influenced a generation with little choice in this regard. Internet video belongs to Zoomers the way heroin belongs to addicts. Seen from this perspective, Overalls Kid is part of a history of violent protest against foreign influence that Americans will recognize in everything from the Boston Tea Party to Al Qaeda to the Ewoks.
We are still the protagonists of our lives, but we now also run the risk of being side characters in other people’s Instagram stories.
Our series of disturbing essays on how much kids love phones tend to ignore who gave them the phone in the first place. We’re like the parents who left the wine cabinet unlocked and shocked to come home and smell the kids’ breath – except we’re making money, so maybe we’re like century-old Britons. 18 transporting opium to China. We don’t force Zoomers to spend their childhood watching and recording videos; We just give them a chance. Some kids will protest, but most will enjoy that opportunity and those kids will make more money for Google, for Apple, for TikTok – all the remote companies hired to do business with digital natives in their new world. It is a world we call barbaric, even as we devote more and more resources to colonizing it.
Overalls Kid has seen its own people (teenagers with disposable income) overwhelmed by a foreign culture (mature tech workers) exploiting them for economic gain. And his only way to fight this exploitation is violence. Maybe he also spends his free time making prank videos, but I like to think he’s trying to live a normal teenage life: dressing up weird, having girlfriends, going to Panda Express wearing though they were getting smoothies because he wanted to spend staring at her as much time as possible. You know – baby stuff. And then this blond boy went with his cameraman, and they continued to treat his girlfriend as if she were just another girlfriend with just one other guy – like the internet did. teach them to do – and the blonde even does it – Edvard Munch’s facial expressions you only see in videos, and it’s all just too much. Overalls Kid hit the off switch on him.
Ironically, his childhood protest against colonization went viral on the internet. His refusal to be a character in the video received millions of views, cementing his identity as a character in the video. Because you can’t get away with it – adults are so much stronger, with billions of dollars and an army of people whose full-time job is to figure out new things for kids to do with their phones, for until the phone is the culture of children Is. Smile! You are using the real camera, for the rest of your life.
Dan Brooks writes essays, novels and commentary from Montana and abroad. The last time he wrote an article about variations of “Garfield”.