The digital and very visual age in which we live has transformed the common idea of posterity.
It used to be possible to attend gatherings of family and friends or even a major sports or entertainment event and be happy to leave merely with a memory or a ticket stub as a souvenir.
Now, the appetite for living our lives online means that many require a photographic footprint of their every adventure, primarily for posting on social media. It seems that a majority now require some selfie-satisfaction on an almost daily basis.
Thanks to technology, we no longer need to carry bulky professional equipment with us wherever we go. The advent of the camera phone means that we can simply slip our devices into our pockets and off we go.
However, the compulsion to let others know what we’ve been up to has begun to generate friction with those who consider the constant presence of lenses as a form of illegitimate over-exposure.
Just a few weeks after commenting on BBC Breakfast and elsewhere about the Premier League trying to clamp down on football fans using match footage on social media, my attention has been drawn to a similar move by organisers of this month’s Ryder Cup.
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) and the PGA European Tour have introduced a ban on uploading of images to social media for the estimated 250,000 fans likely to attend the bi-annual competition, which is being staged at Scotland’s Gleneagles course.
Their joint statement makes clear the fundamental reason why. It is all about stopping individuals who might “commercially exploit photographs”. The organisers want to protect the rights of print and broadcast media as well as sponsors which have paid significant sums for having a measure of exclusivity of access to the tournament. That is all well and good. However, without wishing to knock the best intentions of Ryder Cup Europe into the heavy rough, I foresee potential contradictions and complications in what it’s trying to do.
Whilst I sadly will have to make do with watching the event on TV, I would imagine that the provision of Wi-Fi and an official tournament ‘app’ might be available to spectators, giving them the same sort of convenience and information which we can now get from our local coffee shop. I’m sure those paying a reported £1,500-per-day to attend may not want to be totally incommunicado while traipsing around the famous links. Such facilities were on offer to myself and other fans at the British Open in July.
Enabling internet use for individuals standing only feet away from their idols surely amounts to putting (no golfing pun intended) temptation in their way.
For those finding it impossible to resist the chance to file a quick selfie – something which, indeed, many of the playing participants have a fascination with – there is the issue of enforcement.
Just as the Premier League realised, retrospectively challenging posts will be time-consuming, costly and possibly counter-productive. Do the PGAs in both the US and Europe want to be seen pursuing someone informing his social circle of his delight at rubbing shoulders with Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson?
And what about the stewards tasked with trying to stop people using their camera phones in a manner unauthorised by Ryder Cup organisers? They might not know what they are legally entitled to do or not do. If they are over-eager in their attempts to prevent snaps being taken, is there not a risk of exchanges becoming so heated and, in some cases, physical (I note the threat to confiscate camera phones from spectators attempting to take photographs) that there could even be claims for assault?
In short, an equal call for common sense in the crowd and the clubhouse is in order. Whilst the organisers might be well within their rights to eject uncooperative fans, leaving all supporters fearful of legal action for merely taking a self-portrait runs the risk of ruining the enjoyment which contributes to so much of the atmosphere at a major event like this.
Even the most die-hard golfing professional might consider that protecting the rights of sponsors at the expense of innocent, personal fun in the galleries could leave the game’s ruling bodies out of bounds.