The other day I went to the deli below my office to grab lunch. As I was waiting for my sandwich, I took out my phone and opened Facebook. There at the top of my feed was a Facebook Live video of Erykah Badu singing directly into the camera.
My interest was piqued, not only by the new content type at the top of my feed, but also by Badu’s nose ring, which appeared to be a chopstick with a little chain dangling from the middle. As a big Badu fan, I stayed on the live stream. A minute or two into my live viewing experience, the little chain slipped off the end of the chopstick-nose-ring: a surprise to me and, apparently, to Ms. Badu as well. She glanced down to see where the glittery appendage had gone, then continued.
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is a raw, live experience — that would never happen on more polished mediums.”
Then someone from behind the deli counter called out my name, and the live performance went back into my pocket.
I had some fleeting thoughts through the remainder of the day: what happened to that nose-ring-chain thing? what was the general mood of the performance? did Badu play any material off her “But You Caint Use My Phone” mixtape*?
Of course, by the end of the day, when I finally had time to seek out answers to any of these questions, the performance was not only over, but (due to its being FB Live) gone forever, lost to the ether of ephemerality.
Which leads me to my “I Don’t Get It” moment.
In a media landscape with more channels and distractions than ever before, where asynchronous “watch-it-when-you-want-it” experiences are king, the live video medium expects to move in the opposite direction, asking that viewers make time for live content at the moment it’s happening, with no option for those viewers to return to it at their own convenience? I don’t get it.
Supporters of the live medium retort that the power of user-generated live video is in major events like debates or sporting events, but these will likely be absorbed by the live stream deals (e.g. Twitter et al) established with the suppliers of that content. If I’m a consumer looking for a digital free ride for a sporting event, I’m turning to the official live stream to watch the event, and to Snapchat for all of the fun stuff.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.