Life through a phone screen

Today’s installment of the blog is a result of a technical issue. Two weeks ago, I recorded a live talk on Facebook, only to discover later that the audio of the recording was less than ideal. I had initially planned to re-record the video but decided, typically, to write about the subject instead. It’s my medium of choice. Without further ado, allow me to delve straight into it.

I enjoy watching people. I am fascinated by how different people walk, stand, eat, and interact. I have always been a people-watcher. On that particular Sunday when this story takes place, I was paying close attention to Mr. Wanderlust and the Wanderlust Juniors, seated with me at a small squared bistro table at a restaurant where we were eating brunch prior to a Cirque du Soleil show. I had shown the Wanderlust Juniors a video that their aunt had posted on social media, then put my phone into my purse to enjoy our lunch free of distractions. We were chatting about something when a man seated at a nearby table stood up to leave the restaurant. He approached and said to us, “It’s nice to see a family that talks to one another instead of staring at phones.”

After he left, I looked around us to see that at many tables surrounding us, families similar to ours were slumped over their telephones, barely looking up at the cutlery and food placed before them.

Later, at the show, I was somewhat surprised to learn that an app had been created for use during the show with the promise to enhance the experience for the audience. My initial reaction was to ask, Whatever happened to asking the audience members to turn off their phones? From the screens of those seated near us, I did not spot anything impressive about the app they had downloaded. I suppose that the app could not be made to be all that amazing, so as to prevent distracting the audience.

The reason I did not download the app is twofold:

  1. I am discerning about what I download onto my phone.
  2. I believe in, first and foremost, enjoying live events with the naked eye, instead of through a screen.

Lest you might think that I am writing this post to sound holier-than-thou, rest assured that I often share content on social media. Those who follow me on Instagram or Facebook¬†hopefully enjoy the photographs I share on an almost daily basis. I enjoy the interaction that is facilitated by the advances of technology. However, I don’t believe that social media can or should attempt to replace real good old-fashioned human interaction and likewise, I believe that, save for a quick snap or video, phones should be put away during live concerts.

If you were born in the early 1980s or earlier, you might remember a time when people used to go to concerts and tell their friends about it later. Perhaps, like me, you remember how excited you felt about returning home after the event and picking up the phone to tell your best friend about how fabulous the show was. During your lunch hour on Monday at school or at work, you enjoyed catching up with your classmates or colleagues to share your story and learn about their weekend outings. Those opportunities are lost amid the ubiquitous content thrown our way via social media.

We no longer need to wait for Monday to learn about what our friends did during the weekend. It’s on social media. But it doesn’t have to be.

Lately, I have been relishing the almost-naughty idea of going on an adventure without telling anyone about it — okay, maybe I tell only my mum about it during our Skype chats. It feels good to create secret memories in an age when so much — arguably too much — is shared for the world to see.

During the second act of the show, from the corner of my eye I noticed that an audience member seated near us was checking his phone, scrolling through comments left below his photos and browsing the updates of his friends. All the while, my family and I were riveted by the show and refused to look away.

I like technology. I expect technology to continue to evolve fast. However, I believe that we should continue to discern, to make healthy choices about how we use technology for our benefit, rather than giving it permission to control us. For that reason I put away my phone at mealtimes and usually leave it in a different room two hours before bedtime. When I attend a live entertainment event, I might take a photo or video and share it later, or not at all. Usually, my phone stays in my purse, giving me the freedom to fully immerse myself in the special — and privileged — experience of watching and listening to something beautiful taking place on the stage before me. I don’t want to let life pass me by while I attempt to capture it through the screen of my phone.

How do you feel about the use of phones during live concerts? Do you share my thoughts or do you disagree? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. 

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