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The Problem with GoPro Culture

The Problem with GoPro Culture: Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett

Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett

The last time I was at my mom’s house, she dumped out all her photos and told me to take whatever I wanted. A normal son would worry that this meant his mom might have cancer, but my mother is Jewish and therefore is always telling me she might have cancer. She had mentioned neither an oddly shaped mole nor a suspicious stomachache the entire week. She simply realized she never looks at old pictures and never will.

My mom has way too many images of her life, despite spending the vast majority of it without a camera phone and all of it without a GoPro. So I cannot figure out what bros are planning to do with all the video they’re shooting with their HERO4s. I see them everywhere, documenting unheroic moments. Like when they’re hiking. Or golfing. Or attending a concert. Or—and this is most unforgivable—playing with their children.

Yes, I’m sad that so many of the world’s greatest moments haven’t been documented on film—the premieres of Shakespeare’s plays, Columbus landing in the New World, other times Kim Kardashian has had sex. So if you are now or have ever been a cast member of Jackass, you have permission to GoPro anything. If you’re a Russian worried about a con artist backing into your car, plant one on your windshield. If you’re BASE jumping, hanging out with lions or BASE jumping with lions, by all means. If you are even a distant relative of any Knievel—no questions asked.

But the rest of you need to unstrap your Chesty, unmount your helmet cam, un-Velcro your wrist and, for God’s sake, take the $60 Fetch dog harness off your pit bull. I have seen one video from a dog’s perspective, and all I learned from it is that canines befriended humans because dogs are so boring they’re even boring to other dogs.

Legitimate sports gear is constantly leaking out unnecessarily into the non-sports world. Every so often this is good, as in the case of yoga pants. But usually it’s horrifying: sneakers paired with suits, fishhooks on baseball caps, grown men wearing jerseys with players’ names on the back, the entire 1980s (leg warmers, sweatbands, wristbands and those giant eyeglasses that I assume were meant for racquetball). So whereas a few years ago, when the only people using GoPros were doing high-chair endos on their Yamaha V-Maxes, now shirtless dudes on my hike in Hollywood need to document their ability to walk uphill.

I saw more than one guy at Legoland with a head-mounted GoPro, looking like a miner that a Lego miner would beat up. No one needs moving images of anything that happens in Legoland. This is a place where all the rides are slow enough to capture with a daguerreotype. If there are GoPros at Legoland, there are definitely guys GoProing weeklong meditation retreats.

Even astronauts can become boring when they get a GoPro. Several of them threw some water at a camera and stared at the sphere in awe, as if in their decades of high-level science education they missed all the lessons about surface tension. “That’s so wild!” says astronaut Reid Wiseman—about a camera shooting through water, not about the fact that he’s living outside Earth’s atmosphere. No matter how brilliant you are, a GoPro makes all men seem like Seth Rogen. One of the most popular videos on GoPro’s YouTube channel shows a pancake being flipped from the perspective of a spatula. I had to smoke four bowls just to write that sentence.

Here’s the reason your GoProing is annoying: It causes you to perform. Everyone is suddenly James Cameron, barreling through life as if they were in charge of a $100 million action film. I’m just trying to ski, but you’re capturing a once-in-a-lifetime moment, so I have to duck under the stick with your camera on it. We are no longer a community of skiers; I am an extra in the 8 millionth hour of the world’s worst movie, called YouTube.

Excessive GoProing is a male problem. Just as women take too many selfies to show off how hot they are, dudes shoot video to show off any skills they’ve acquired. GoProing appeals to the pathetic part of men that still needs Mom to look at us before we cannonball into a pool. It also appeals to the part of men that wants to strap cameras to inanimate objects to see how they would see the world. It shows a tremendous amount of restraint and economic sacrifice that GoPro doesn’t sell a penis mount.

Worse, the type of man who GoPros is exactly the type of man who shouldn’t be empowered by a GoPro. These cameras aren’t giving voice to shy, smart, funny people. They’re making dudes who are already too noticeable even more noticeable. If each art medium were at a party—paintbrushes telling the pretty girl how pretty she is, typewriters drinking whiskey in the corner and looking at the pretty girl, drum kits actually making out with the pretty girl—the GoPro would be doing a keg stand, lighting its farts on fire and laughing at the lines from Family Guy he’s simultaneously quoting.

So be aware, bro, that no matter how sweet the footage from your rad adventure trip to Costa Rica, when you post it online you’ve just done the modern version of boring your dinner guests with slides of your vacation. Only they’re not even watching. No matter what they claim in the YouTube comments.

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