It was a crisp October evening in Madison; the leaves were beautiful and the weather was perfect for a warm sweater. I was feeling content, walking down the street towards the glowing sign of the Majestic Theater, visions of the concert to come being entertained in my imagination, as my friends and I enjoyed the warmth of our alcohol blankets. With a few ‘pardon mes’ and only a couple ‘watch it bubs,’ we made our way into a decent position and began to cheer as the lights dimmed. That’s when the crowd began to glow.
Well, not the crowd exactly. This strange glow came from these rectangular devices that came from pockets and purses. The glowing rectangles sent short videos or saved longer ones of what we saw with our eyes, but with worse quality. I approached the nice couple in front of me, inquiring as to why they covered their eyes with this box and if they would mind limiting its use, as to not interfere with our concert experience. A series of expletives and hisses assured me this was not an option.
This situation is growing more prevalent in today’s concert scene. Phones have began to replace our eyes more and more, with screens illuminating concertgoers faces more often than not. Phones have even replaced some of the oldest traditions of concerts, with lighters being trumped by cute kitten phone backgrounds. Not that I disapprove of the health implications of less people carrying lighters, but rather the nostalgia of it.
I can understand a couple of photos here and there, even I do that occasionally. As much as I despise social media, taking a couple photos for a Snapchat or an Instagram offends me on a different level, which we won’t get into, but does not infringe on anyone else’s enjoyment of the artist’s performance.
That is the real reason that the phone revolution at concerts bothers me. It’s not the copious amounts of photos or the fact that people are distracting themselves from the experience. It’s how it affects other people. When you are trying to watch a live show and all you can see is a red record button ticking off seconds and a pixelated view of what you could be seeing with your eyes, that really ruins the experience. On top of that, there are those who just don’t understand flash etiquette. Flashes aren’t okay at concerts, ever. They distract everyone, from the artist to the 50 people the phone just bathed in blinding light.
One of the more powerful things I have ever experienced in live music was at a Lumineers concert in Minneapolis. It was not my favorite show I have ever been to, nor was it the best crowd or venue. It was what the lead singer said after their opening song that gave me so much respect and stuck with me. He strummed a couple chords of the next song, then took the microphone and told everyone to put away their phones. He said that we are all here to experience this together, so don’t let technology get in the way, just be present. And what do you know, everyone put their phones away and it was awesome.
All distractions aside, what on earth is that peppy girl in front of you going to do with hundreds of photos of similar positions in the concert, all seconds apart? I guarantee that 95 percent of all concert photos (and remember 67.46 percent of all statistics are made up) are deleted without any practical use at all. I know any pictures I take on my phone from concerts usually get seen again months later, and then are deleted to make room for pictures that are actually valued. They take up space and are then forgotten. Don’t even get me started on videos, especially the ones that are saved to the phone that go past the neighborhood of 30 seconds. What on earth is the practical purpose of those? To make others jealous of what you saw? To share with a loved one who wasn’t there? Just call them for goodness’ sake, it does the same thing and is much more personal. Does that person think they have a high-quality shot and is going to post it to YouTube? I think we all have attempted to watch a concert video off a phone on YouTube, and they are always the absolute worst.
So why do it? It takes away from everyone’s pleasure, including your own. Sure, snap a couple pictures here and there, and if you have an assignment or are covering the concert by all means, snap away. But for the purpose of someone who is simply there for the experience, why dilute such an ethereal and sensory experience by something so industrial and coarse as a cell phone? Enjoy the experience, enjoy the lights, enjoy the music, enjoy the crowd and most of all just take time to enjoy yourself.
Eli is a senior majoring in general engineering. Have you ever been guilty of spending too much time waving your phone around at a concert? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.