At the risk of sounding like a backward, technology-shy old fogey, I have to agree with social purists (people who value face-time over virtual pokes and pithy one-liners) that smartphones are turning us into a generation of untrained (and largely unpaid) paparazzi. You cannot trust anyone in this camera phone jungle, not even your friends, especially not your friends. A lesson most have learnt more than once.
With the whole world either in hysterics or appalled at Prince Harry’s recent misstep in Las Vegas, it once again raises the issue of privacy in this virtual world of ours. It would appear that ten too many drinks and a game of strip billiards, (possibly the most raucous game of billiards ever played), culminated in the young royal revealing more than is considered decent for a man of his social standing. While the royal family are enraged at the incompetence and lackadaisical attitudes of the Prince’s minders, what is more disturbing for civilians like myself is the ease with which friends and acquaintances photograph and share our likenesses without consent. Checking Facebook to un-tag any embarrassing pictures of nights gone wrong is not unusual for a lot of people and very rarely do we seem anything more than a little peeved at the snap-happy offenders. If your friend intentionally embarrassed you in the company of others on a night out you would be horrified and there would be words later but for some reason social media spills into another realm where we slightly remove ourselves from our reality – cringe, un-tag, humoursise and go on with our lives.
The over-documentation of our every move has led to an air of paranoia in the atmosphere. In an article on the ‘Dirty Harry’ debacle, Emma Barnett of the Telegraph recalls seeing the young prince for the first time many years ago – “Panicking I thought: ‘who on earth would believe me when I said I had indeed partied with the two most eligible bachelors in Britain without any photographic evidence?” – A clear case of the ‘if you can’t tag it, it didn’t happen syndrome’ that’s catching like flu. The same reason the unknown girls who were lucky enough to be in the company of a drunk Harry would make sure their bragging rights were solidified by smart phone. The prince partied at the poolside, sat at the bar then moved the party to his suite where there are said to have been over twenty people, a lot of them clearly taking photos. In the case of Harry, these pictures carry a hefty price tag as well as a deficit in dignity. But it’s not all bad with supporters going to Twitter to declare Harry their favourite royal and an “absolute legend.”
Prince Harry’s recent revelations, however unintentional, are a reminder to us all that the world we live in is not safe for anything more than staged poses and perfectly planned pouts ala Kim Kardashian. If you can’t hold yourself together don’t go to Vegas on an empty stomach. And certainly don’t get drunk and undressed with people you wouldn’t trust with your reputation – whoever those people are.