OPINION: At concerts, put that cell phone down
Editor’s note: Each week in “Apparently This Matters,” CNN’s Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the Web.
(CNN) — “Wow! I totally just watched the awesome cell phone video you shot at that concert!”
Said nobody ever.
Yet, at some point, we’ve all done it.
The band is on stage. The phone is in your pocket. And, lest you actually just dance and enjoy yourself and maybe scan the floor for dropped cash, you decide, instead, to shoot three minutes of unlistenable pixel puke.
Because you can.
Perhaps you upload the blurry mess to Facebook or YouTube, but in the end, it ultimately just gets filed deep within your camera roll with the pointless images of some overpriced, mediocre meal you ate from a trendy new food truck.
For, at the time, that, too, seemed worth documenting.
“Look, Sarah! Mexican-Chinese-Ethiopian-Pittsburgh fusion!”
It’s difficult to explain just why we do it — why having a very basic camera in our pocket compels us to shoot photos and videos of live music that, deep down, we know we’ll never look at.
Part of it might be the delusional notion of preserving a memory, but it’s probably more about showing everyone in social media that you’re actually out of your house doing something culturally important. As opposed to staying in and slathering your body with ranch dressing.
Once again, I believe I’ve shared too much.
But for exploring your city and having a true, cultural experience, live music counts. Going to Home Depot doesn’t.
Otherwise, we’d all be tweeting arrogant selfies next to lumber.
“Must be nice to be Gary. Always hanging around wood.”
Of course, cell phones annoyingly blocking your view at concerts is nothing new, and even complaining about them (like I am here) has grown rather cliché. Yet, it seems to be getting worse.
So, recently, the indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs decided to try something. They posted a sign:
“PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA. PUT THAT S— AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian. MUCH LOVE AND MANY THANKS! YEAH YEAH YEAHS”
This all came out a couple of weeks ago when a picture of their sign from New York’s Webster Hall was tweeted by Spin magazine, and it quickly got passed around the Internet. The band’s sentiments seemed to strike a nerve.
But never mind the annoyance of having to look at the stage through a sea of bright, glaring viewfinders. Even more than that, it’s all just become sort of sad. We’re disconnected from the music.
The real eye-opener for me was last year, when I saw Roger Waters perform “The Wall.”
It was incredible. This show had explosions. And shiny things. And planes falling from the sky. It was complete sensory overload, and when I got home, I decided my life needed more lasers.
I considered attaching some to my dog. In fact, I’m still thinking about it.
“The Wall” was simply amazing. Yet, so many people missed the entire show.
And they were literally right there.
Amidst all the operatic madness of the classic Pink Floyd double album, everywhere I looked, people were watching it through 3 inches of glass on their phones. One of the greatest rock spectacles ever was directly in front of them, yet they actually made the conscious decision to have a worse visual experience.
If “The Wall” was fine dining, it would be like ordering a beautiful steak and then asking the server to put it down his pants for five minutes.
“Look, just run around the building a few times, do some burpees and bring it back.”
But, for all those people at the Roger Waters show, I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
However, I assure you it wasn’t.
So, as an experiment, I want you to pick up your phone, scroll through your photos and videos, and stop when you get to something you shot at a concert.
Then ask yourself this: Did I actually pay to see Creed?
And if the answer is yes, go jump into a river.
Otherwise, take a moment and really think about that photo. Or that video.
Was it worth annoying everyone else behind you? Has it made your life better? Will you ever look at it again?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, please join the Creed fans somewhere downstream. Your services are no longer needed.
Interestingly, though, on a positive note, last weekend I went to Wanee Festival in Live Oak, Florida, for a weekend of Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic and several other bands that rule your face.
Deep within the trees among the masses of people, getting a cell phone signal strong enough to utilize the interwebs was next to impossible. Which may explain why I saw so few people actually using their phones to begin with.
And as the night sky darkened, I was struck by the absence of little glowing viewfinders. People were just enjoying the music.
Part of that is a reflection of the overall music-first vibe at Wanee Festival, But it still proves that it’s entirely possible to be a part of the live music experience without having to document it in some way.
Of course, if you have a quality camera and can get up close, there’s definitely an art in concert photography. And people certainly appreciate that.
But for everyone else, let’s all agree to give it a rest. Do it for you. Just experience the music, take it in, and we’ll talk about our favorite moments over late-night food.
I know a great place for Mexican-Chinese-Ethiopian-Pittsburgh fusion.
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