“They call it a selfie? . . . . I call it taking a lonely”
Sebastian Maniscalco, Comedian

So here’s the deal. Who hasn’t been to a show and been interrupted by a “selfie” by what I call a “collector”–the term I have given to a person who seeks to collect and grab pics or vids in the hopes of tweeting, texting, snapchatting, posting, gramming, or, vining them. I know I have been. In fact, I think the most popular question that some concert goers seem to ask is whether there is wi-fi at the venue. Stated in its most colloquial sense I have to ask….What the &%$#@???? This new practice of “documenting your experience via cellphone” suggests to be a dramatic departure from the traditional concert experience where it was the performer who led the experience; now, it appears that some of the concert goers themselves are the feature act or at least they think they are. I know this is not new to some of us but I really thought this was only a fad but from what I see it seems to be a new way of “concert” life.

So that begs the question; is this manner of watching a concert a problem? I guess that depends on your point of view but for me, it is a problem. My reasoning is simple. I paid money to see a particular performer on a stage–not thousands of them on display right in front of me. Somehow the “smartphone” has become the “star” of the show and I don’t why.

This year one of the biggest protagonists against the use of the cell phone has been Jack White. White is on tour now and this is his position on cellphone use during a concert:

“I was hoping it would be more of an art project. I wanted to surprise people. I thought it would be great if people showed up and they found out right when they got there that there were these pouches for the phones. I thought it would excite them and possibly make some of them upset. But it’s funny. I go to movies and everyone turns their phone off. You go to the symphony, there’s no phones. Church, no phones. There’s all these places where it’s already happening. So let’s try a rock ‘n’ roll concert and see what happens.
I want people to live in the moment, and it’s funny that the easiest way to rebel is to tell people to turn off their phone. If your phone is that important to you that you can’t live without it for two hours then I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to see a therapist.”

Here’s a sad sad fact. Consider this quote from a member of Rolling Stone magazine:

“Attention spans are at an all-time low and the ubiquity of smartphones has resulted in a huge percentage of the audience at any given show barely paying attention to the action onstage.”

Indeed, according to a T-Mobile survey 47% of audience members text during shows.

But there are some real reasons why this practice is bad which are separate and apart from personal preference. Consider this.

First, by being so consumed with documenting your experience you really are missing out on what you supposedly came to see in the first place. Think about it. You replace viewing and spectating with analyzing the show in real time in the hopes of framing or videoing that perfect shot. Your focus on simply enjoying the show and taking in the moment is invariably lost.

Second, there is an inescapable distraction that you cause to fellow concert goers around you. If it’s not the light from your cellphone which bothers or distracts the person standing or sitting next to you, it’s your fervor over being an amateur photographer or videographer. In fact, for real ambitious “selfer” they have resorted to the notorious “selfie stick” to really get the job done and that, I think, is crossing the line and I am not the only one who thinks this. Indeed, some major venues like Wembley Arena have banned selfie sticks.

Justin Timberlake photobombs fans taking a selfie

Finally, we sometimes forget that performers themselves get annoyed with this practice. For example, who remembers the incident from August of 2014 when icon Peter Frampton took a fan’s cellphone and threw it? However, to be fair some performers do seem to be tolerant of their fandom seeking unplanned pictures with them. And on the other hand, there are concerts these days where there is a no-phones policy. You could find such concerts, if you were inclined to experience something old school, by searching for ‘Upcoming music events near you’ or something similar.

Beyonce plays ball with a fan taking a selfie

In fact, in catering to fans some performers have really made incredible moments for the fans and themselves like when Bruce Springsteen masterfully walked up to a 13-year-old fan at a show he did in Baltimore. The child’s reaction is priceless and it appears the Boss was happy to oblige. Check out the video for that below:

Interestingly, there is a vendor on the market who addresses this very issue and maybe you have heard of them; they are called Yondr and you can reach their website here. According to Yondr their mission statement is as follows:

“Smartphones have fundamentally changed how we live. How to integrate them into our lives as a useful tool, rather than a compulsive habit, is a question that needs an answer. We think smartphones have incredible utility, but not in every setting. In some situations, they have become a distraction and a crutch-cutting people off from each other and their immediate surroundings. Yondr has a simple purpose: to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it.”

It’s worth a few minutes of your time to see how this wonderful company has sought out to create a cell-phone free zone. In this digital world we live in, that seems almost too good to be true.

So, the good news is that there appears to be a growing awareness of this issue and possible solutions to it. The bad news is that it still goes on. But, in time that may change….hopefully, that is. Don’t worry, I will send you a text when it does or maybe even a “lonely.”

Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor




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