Everywhere I go I’m being watched by security cameras. They monitor cars running red lights, count pedestrians to determine the number of potential shoppers along a certain street, and watch train passengers. Most of the time I don’t notice, but when I am aware, I wonder, who’s back there looking at me? In movies, we usually see a bank of screens in a darkened room showing feeds from multiple surveillance cameras. The security team seems bored and easily distracted, and they often miss the most important event. What could I possibly be doing that is worthy of having “eyes on”?
Does having a camera on me make me act differently? I’m sure we all respond differently when we know we’re being observed. I might check my posture, postpone scratching my nose, pat my hair into place. Public safety proponents say that cameras help deter criminals. If they know they’re being observed on a train platform or bus, they’ll think twice before raising a ruckus or stealing your iPhone. Critics decry the surveillance state, pointing out that crime still happens, caught on tape or not.
When I was growing up, I imagined that there was a movie camera following me around, tracking my daily movements. Here I am going down the stairs to the basement, here I am chopping vegetables for dinner, here I am dusting the furniture! Our family never made home movies, yet, somehow I was struck with this idea that one day, when I became famous, people would be interested to know the details of my childhood. I can remember talking – out loud – to myself explaining some of the things I was doing, so future viewers would understand. Looking back, it seems like I was in my own reality show.
Though I imagined others would be interested in my life, maybe the actual archived images will be used one day to better understand life way back in 2016. Look at those cars and the clothes they’re wearing! This was when people still walked and could breathe the air! Grainy, black-and-white pictures of me crossing the street, passing an office building, entering a revolving door. Future history students are watching. I should wave.