Online video will take you places you never expected to go. That’s not always a good thing.
I’m a big fan of Snapchat’s
Snap Map, which was introduced in June 2017. With Snap
Map, you can see videos people
are recording in any part of the
globe. The map uses colors to
show what areas have recent
uploads. Just tap one of those
areas to see what the locals are
up to. I like to use it to travel to
exotic beaches, to find out what
the scene in Ipanema or Bondi
Beach looks like. But I’ve used
it to visit Alaska and lots of European cities as well. You find
quick, casual videos shot by
regular people, so they offer a
more intimate look than we’re
I knew Snap Map might be
just as interesting during a crisis, and that was in my head on
October 2, the day we all heard
about the mass shooting in Las
Vegas. Early that day I called
up Snap Map and tapped the area by Mandalay
Bay where the killings took place. At first, I saw
videos from the previous night’s Route 91 Harvest music festival. I saw Jake Owen in a bright
red shirt singing onstage. Then I saw Jason Al-dean in his cowboy hat, and I knew we were getting close. Sometimes the people shooting video turned the camera on the crowd or showed
themselves, nodding, smiling. I saw hundreds of
people having a good time on a fall night. And I
wondered … Well, you know what I wondered.
Abruptly, the videos changed. Instead of music, I saw mayhem. They showed people hiding
behind cars, people piled up against barriers. I
could feel their confusion and panic. And that’s
where the videos left off.
Work takes me to Las Vegas multiple times
a year, and I have family there as well. The city
isn’t my idea of paradise, but I feel a certain af-
fection for it. A little later on October 2, after I’d
read more articles about the enormity of what
took place, I turned to Snap Map again to see if
there were more uploads. This time there were
no concert videos; it started with the mayhem. I
could hear automatic weapons
being fired. I was with people
as they ran across fields look-
ing for safety. Some—larger,
older—walked briskly, and I
thought, “Go faster, dammit, go
faster,” even though it was all
over by then. I was with people
as they hid behind a police car,
then yelled to move out when
the shooter seemed to pause to
reload. I saw an older woman
look into the camera and tell
someone that she loved them,
unsure if she would make it out.
The video scenes moved in-
side, and I saw people hiding
in hallways and casinos, yell-
ing to barricade the doors. I saw
dazed people sitting in near-
by McCarran airport, unsure
where to go. The killings over,
one video showed the space
between the shooter’s window
and the stage area, emphasiz-
ing how short a distance it was.
The whole viewing experience left me traumatized and heartbroken in a way no news report could. I couldn’t watch anymore, but I also
couldn’t not watch. Which is better: Stopping to
rubberneck at a tragedy or moving along and
not looking at all?
I thought I was done, I told myself I was done,
but late in the day I clicked over to Snap Map
one more time. This time was different. This
time I saw a vigil outside city hall. I saw people
lining up to donate blood. I saw a line of cars
entering the Las Vegas Convention Center to
drop off supplies. One person did something unspeakably awful, and then thousands responded in ways designed to comfort and support.
Online video brought me that, too. I saw the
worst and then I saw the best.
Troy Dreier ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior associate
editor of Streaming Media and Onlinevideo.net.
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On SnapChat’s Snap Map, users can see videos
people are recording in any part of the globe.