Earlier this month, a group of teenagers in Florida filmed and laughed at a man as he drowned.
On the video, the five boys can be heard heckling Jamel Dunn, who was 31.
"Yeah bitch you shoulda never got in there," one said.
"Let him drown," said another.
Dunn fought to stay above water but died as they watched.
The lake where Jamel Dunn died as teenagers looked on
Florida's state attorney said that his office was deeply saddened and shocked, but could not criminally prosecute the teens who range in age between 14-18.
They were, he said, morally but not legally culpable when they failed to come to the aid of Mr Dunn, despite his desperate cries for help.
Police are still trying to find a way to press charges but it seems there is no readily available punishment for the unimaginable cruelty of these young men.
Whatever awful things have happened to these children to render them so indifferent to suffering is a whole other story, but in some ways this event crystallised a nagging and specific concern I have about the effect of smartphones on our society.
For me, it started a few years ago with the increasing frequency of people silently coming right up to me with their phones out, filming, as I worked on the streets of New York with my camera crew and producer.
Other than the invasion of personal space (one man literally held his phone inches from my face as I tried to talk to the camera) I couldn't quite work out why it bothered me so much.
Eventually I realised it was because it was so clear they weren't seeing me as a human.
To them, I was an interesting event or object to be collected on their phone, hoarded, shared on social media as if my team and I were theirs.
The looks on their faces used to frighten me - blank and empty as they moved ever closer.
I started to learn that I could pop the bubble by saying "hello" loudly, by waving and saying something nice or even asking if they were okay.
Almost always, there was an immediate change in demeanour.
People often looked embarrassed, as if woken from a trance, not knowing where they were.
Of course, Mr Dunn didn't have the chance to impress his humanity on the group of boys who laughed as he drowned in front of them.
What happens to me as I work is nothing compared with what happened in that Florida pond, but I think the behaviour is on the same spectrum.
Used constantly and without restriction, the powerful recording devices on our phones and our love of sharing that content with others has become an end in itself.
You can see it everywhere - people often record rather than experience beautiful art in museums or gorgeous buildings or stunning landscapes.
Parents follow children with their phones out rather than watching and remembering something delightful unfold. I know, I'm one of them.
There are countless other examples.
I optimistically, perhaps naively, believe the pendulum could be swinging back the other way.
In many big cities there are already restaurants that ban food photography, art galleries that prefer no phones, and clubs that ask you to keep your mobile in your pocket.
These are small, gimmicky steps, but they are the right ones, and in the right direction.
I love smartphones. They've changed the world, and I can't live without them.
But anything that enhances our ability to connect with one another without the aid of a device is entirely necessary.
There might be all sorts of reasons why those children let Mr Dunn die, but I'm certain that a preoccupation with recording rather than connecting played its part.


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