Cell Phones and Selfies: A Concertgoer's Rant
Last night I had the opportunity to see John Mayer perform at Pine Knob (also known as DTE, but I refuse to call it that). I've been fortunate enough to see him six or seven other times in concert, and the last time I saw him was almost exactly three years ago.
What struck me last night was not just how much John Mayer's music has evolved over the years, but the overwhelming amount of new generation fans at the show. Having been a fan since high school, it's wild to think that most of the people there last night were in elementary school when his first album was released.
While my friend Julia and I were ecstatic about him playing an acoustic version of "Your Body Is a Wonderland" -- considering he tends to avoid his earlier music in concert lately -- and joked that most of the young crowd probably assumed that John's cover of "Free Fallin'" is actually an original tune he wrote about Taylor Swift, the cranky old school fan in me was most annoyed by one thing: everyone's cell phones.
It seems that this summer more than ever before, people are more concerned with taking crappy mobile photos from 100 feet back than listening to the music, dancing, and watching the concert through their own eyes.
I don't want to be a hypocrite and say that I'm not guilty of snapping pictures on my phone at a concert, but I try not to do it very often. For one, the photos don't turn out 90% of the time -- it's a shame that I, like so many others of my generation, have strayed from my trusty digital camera to snap pictures that are of much higher quality. And secondly, it's pretty annoying for the people behind you to have the equivalent of a small flashlight glaring in their eyes as you hold the phone up to take the pictures, blocking their view of the stage in the process.
A group of three girls who seemed to be in their late teens or early 20s were in the row ahead of us at the show, and they were the worst culprits of this concert faux pas gone awry.
The girl in front of me was petite, and therefore held her phone -- honestly it looked like the size of a Kindle... aren't phones supposed to be more compact and practical in the 21st century? -- above her head the entire first hour and a half of the show to snap pictures and film grainy video.
When she wasn't documenting the concert? She had her head down to peruse the photos, deleting a majority of them, but more importantly SHE WAS MISSING IT. Missing John Mayer's left leg bobbing up and down as he played the acoustic guitar.
Missing his goofy, wonderful headband/bandanna that draped over his right shoulder. Missing his leather knapsack swaying against his hip as his hands moved ferociously up and down the guitar strings.
Sure, the backdrop of the stage was absolutely gorgeous -- Red Rock mountains with a large screen that showed the stars, then the sun rising from behind. And yes, I tried to take a picture of it and it turned out awful because of the lighting. But what ever happened to experiencing something?
This girl's friends were just as bad at paying attention to the concert they, oh right, paid to see. When they weren't texting (can someone tell me the magical phone network these girls have, because my phone never works for anything when I'm at a concert, football game, pretty much anywhere with a dense population of iPhone owners), they were taking 'selfies.' Multiple.
And what's the point of doing that... so you can post them on Facebook or Instagram to show your friends and family that you were at the John Mayer concert? 'Cause ladies, you might have been there, but you weren't there.
Music is an escape for me. I know it's an escape for millions of people. Driving in the car, blasting a favorite song, singing along with the windows down? That's paradise. Seeing a favorite singer or band performing live? That's beyond.
It used to feel like concerts were this collection of superfans that knew all of the lyrics, who held onto every word the singer said in between songs, who got excited when he or she threw in an unexpected oldie. Now it feels like most people are just disconnected. Distracted.
And their distraction -- the selfies, the texting, the bright blue glow of smartphones -- becomes my own distraction, as much as I try to ignore it.
What happened to living in the moment? What would happen if there wasn't a photo to accompany every fabulous brunch get together, every outfit, or every concert?
Yes, this is coming from someone who loves to take photos, and who has filled her iPhone with pictures of her baby, dog, homemade meals, and collection of TOMS shoes. But I also love to escape in a moment, letting it wash over me.
This morning, as I was thinking back on my frustrations from last night and worries for this upcoming generation of texting, selfie-taking, overly-connected-but-disconnected people, I thought about one of my favorite early John Mayer songs: "3x5."
Sadly I think the generation under me would think that 3x5 is part of a math equation and not a photograph size, and I would venture a guess that many of those young John Mayer fans there last night haven't heard this wonderful song.
Because if they knew it, and the message behind it, they wouldn't dare spend the majority of his concert with smartphone in hand.
In the song, John talks about experiencing a beautiful outdoor scene without "a camera by my side this time, hoping I could see the world through both my eyes." He laments that the "you" in the song isn't with him, and without a camera to take a photo, all he can do is describe it from memory. Ultimately though, the 3x5 photograph could never capture the beautiful world in front of him.
"Today I finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame."
For a 12-year-old song, it's amazing to think how on point he really was, and how much this song could serve as a lesson to those more concerned with capturing, while not even accurately capturing, what's right in front of their eyes.
So concertgoers, if you don't want to listen to me, maybe you'll listen to Beyonce, who recently told a fan at a concert to "put that damn camera down!"
Now, for your enjoyment... vintage John Mayer. 2001 was a very good year.