Disturbing 'Drunk' Driving Live Video Prompts Surprising Response

By Mendoza, Jessica | The Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Disturbing 'Drunk' Driving Live Video Prompts Surprising Response


Mendoza, Jessica, The Christian Science Monitor


The arrest of a Florida woman who police say streamed live video of herself driving drunk is a new marker of how deeply online sharing culture has permeated American society - and highlights how social technologies are evolving both to meet and fuel this demand.

But the potential is not just for a downward spiral of inappropriate content posted from a desperate desire for attention, experts say.

When mobile apps such as Twitter-owned Periscope and its rival Meerkat launched earlier this year, they gave the average person, for the first time, the power to provide and participate in the streaming experience whenever and wherever they wanted via their smartphones.

Police in Lakeland, Fla., say Whitney Beall fell afoul of that temptation in a dangerous and potentially criminal way. But the incident also suggests that the technology has the ability to engage people in new and thoughtful ways, too.

Though just over 50 people were reportedly watching Ms. Beall on Periscope Saturday as she went to bars with friends, some of them called 911 when she tried to drive herself home.

"Live-streaming has the potential for being very beneficial because it allows us to be with others in a moment - to understand life and have empathy for a person," says John Grohol, a doctor of psychology who specializes in online mental health and human behavior, and founder and CEO of PsychCentral.com. "It provides an understanding of the daily problems of living."

Dr. Grohol describes the possibility of broadcasting, in real time, how a woman from a poor village might struggle to bring water to her family. That event could strike viewers as "more real and tangible and emotionally compelling" in a live-streaming format than in text, still images, or edited video, he says.

Of course, digital tools are "a double-edged sword," he notes. "The way we've set up social media, it's one big popularity contest." Such a scheme can lead to risky behavior for the sake of a good tweet or Instagram photo.

These services "can amplify or reinforce bad or outrageous behavior," he says. "If it gets you more likes, [some might say], 'Wow, I'm going to see how much I can push the limit here. …

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