Many people at the Culture Club gig I went to last night watched the whole thing through their smartphone screens, recording it.
Now, professional cameras with zoom lenses are banned but you can pinch and zoom in using a smartphone but it’s software- assisted, which basically means the result is blurred – the closer you zoom, the worse the pixellation. When you don’t zoom in, the photos or videos you take at a live performance are going to have the subject appearing much further away than they are when you don’t have a smartphone between your eyes and what’s going on.
So, people chose to buy expensive tickets for a show they watched the entirety of through the prism of a small screen as if they had bought tickets fifty rows further back than wherever they were. They recorded videos they took back home and likely never watched again, at least not from start to finish. Maybe for a few seconds to show someone else they were there. The gig was a transitory event in life, meaning, like all things, it came, it happened, it ended and became a memory – but people wanted to pin it down and keep it forever, not letting their brains do the job on its own of storing the evening.
I can understand the occasional photo. I can even understand short clips. But the whole thing? Even worse, I saw a woman messaging and Facebooking throughout the show. Her phone was in her hand all the time, lit up in the row in front of me. It was distracting. Sure, she might have checked in with a babysitter or carer – but that wouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and wouldn’t involve scrolling through Facebook posts.
That woman was not present at the gig; she was not present with her friends list on Facebook, either, because that was virtual. She was a woman existing but not experiencing, a person who was really nowhere. She was in a state of limbo. Or, some might argue, purgatory: a slave to Facebook, a slave to her phone. She was certainly not free. And she is far from being the exception.
I love my technology. It’s Apple, it’s shiny and well-made and works. But it has to serve my needs. Even though these devices can be on all the time, we can communicate and be reached around the clock all year round, it doesn’t mean we should always be available nor should we view the world through them.
My iPhone and my Apple Watch were on airport mode during the entire gig. I bought a souvenir programme, printed on paper, with professional colour photos. It was expensive at £15 but you can’t argue the cost of those is prohibitive if you’ve paid upwards of £50 to attend a gig and decide to film it on a smartphone that cost upwards of £700. The programme will be my aid to memory, far more effectively than poor quality photos and videos.
I was present at the gig. I experienced it with my own ears and eyes, unfiltered, without a screen. I can’t make you have that experience if you weren’t there. I can only tell you it was great, I had fun, you should’ve been there, etc. That is called life. We each experience different things and share our experiences in storytelling. We might even use a few photos or video clips. We cannot capture everything and upload it to our friends’ heads.
Even if a commercial release on digital video, DVD and blu-ray comes out, it can only present a perspective on what happened. The experience was yours and yours alone to have – unless you chose to watch through a tiny window or didn’t even focus because you were texting friends the whole time telling them you were at the gig and claiming to have fun even though you didn’t watch anything that was going on.
Controversial as it may be, but I think smartphones are making many people anything but smart. It’s a choice they make, not the fault of the technology, but they are becoming stupid. They are not using their senses, their brains. They abdicate from focus, thought, reflection, interpretation, dialogue, debate, discussion, and true living.
Our species forces animals into tiny boxes to be factory-farmed and we deny them natural lives. We voluntarily do it to ourselves.