Posted by: alinesoules | June 14, 2015

Crossing the Line

Like all writers I know, I spend time observing, listening, experiencing the world around me, particularly people.  Whatever I take in through my senses comes out, in some processed form, in my writing.  I have considered this habit the purview of writers, but I was prompted to re-think my habit recently, when I attended a reading at my local bookstore.  Before the reading began, a woman showed a video to everyone who would view it.  She and her partner had gone out to dinner the previous night.  At the next table, a couple had been overtly physical with each other.  The woman had video’d their very personal physical exchange on her smart phone. On the one hand, it was a public place and being in a public place, the couple made themselves vulnerable to being captured in video form.  On the other hand, the woman never told them she had done this, and I wondered how they would have felt if they had known.  Now, they were being laughed at in a place they had probably never heard of, by people they had never met.

line_in_the_sandThe woman held out her phone to me, but I couldn’t watch.  I felt too much of a voyeur.  Yet, I would have watched the couple had I been in the restaurant.  As a citizen, I was appalled by this invasion of privacy, despite the couple’s folly.  What if the woman puts it on YouTube?  As a writer, however, I began to question my habit of observing and now, two days later, I am still in a quandary.  Looking at the natural world is one thing; looking at people is another.  Is it right to observe people so intensely?  Further, I admit that I observe clandestinely, not wanting people to know I’m watching because a) it’s rude and b) people change behavior when they know they are being watched.

do know that capturing people’s behavior on video is crossing the line for me, but, apparently, it isn’t for others.  I will be more wary in future, partly because it has been drawn to my attention that anyone can video me anytime anyplace and share that, but also because I don’t want to cross the line.  I just need to figure out where the
line falls.

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