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A dashcam image of the meteor crash in Russia courtesy of Flickr user binho.parella.

Boom! A meteor crashes through the sky in the middle of the day. Everyone around has barely any time to react. It’s the kind of event that happens once in a lifetime or even every century. This must be captured on film. However, before anyone can even take out their phones, it’s over. The most everyone could catch on a cellphone was the tail end of the crash. Perhaps there will be no footage of the event after all. However, there was one source of salvation, dashboard cameras. As the people in the area were driving, the dashcams on their vehicles caught the event. Preempting any human reaction, these always on cameras made it possible for such an occasion to be seen by all.

A compilation of videos of the Russian meteor taken from various dashcams.

In Russia almost everyone has a camera on their vehicle. The meteor is far from the only unusual occurence to be caught by one of these cameras. It is so prevalent that Russian activist Aleksei Dozorov says that “You can get into your car without your pants on, but never get into a car without a dash cam.”  The original reason for this is meant to capture insurance fraud or corruption in the act. However, these cameras have been shown to capture both their intended targets and dramatic events such as these. Far from their intended purpose, dashcam videos have become a social media sensation. There are many videos on Youtube that have been filmed from a Russian dashcam. However, unlike the video of the meteor, many of these are used by activists to prove how dangerous the Russian streets are.

So why is this so popular in Russia and not in other countries with similar corruption?  How come YouTube isn’t littered with videos like these from China or Uzbekistan? Maybe their government is less oppressive than these? However, I think that this is because the Russian people are Westernizing more than most and have come to truly understand the impact of social media. Over 61 million Russians now have internet access. They are slowly becoming more and more like the West, with the tendency to film and share everything. With videos like the meteor, they seem to share the joy of the viral video as we Americans have. Yet, unlike the West more of these have a greater impact. Perhaps, the level of corruption filmed actually leads to social change. Maybe it is in Russia where the first real social media revolution happens? Aided by activists, some of these videos spread awareness of issues almost every Russian faces not only with each other, but with the world.

Maybe someday every car will have a dash cam, but for now this remains a purely Russian phenomenon. At least we can still enjoy watching a Jeep being struck by lightning somewhere. 

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