Mobile phones and concerts

No one is likely to have failed to notice that Glastonbury was last month; however, you might not have paid much attention. For those not obsessed with the comings and goings of the Pyramid Stage you might have missed Ed Sheeran’s closing performance. Epic, as it was (you’d expect nothing less, of course) the thing we want to focus on is his request for the audience to light up the sky with their mobile phones.

The resulting pictures are somewhat impressive – a sea of bright screens, twinkling in the moonlight. Almost romantic, if you want to think of it that way.  However, it got us wondering if we’ve taken the obsession with our mobile devices too far.

A long, long time ago (2015) The Eagles banned all mobile devices from their concerts, warning guests that if they made calls, sent texts, took photographs or started recording they would be asked to leave.  It’s quite a quaint notion in this permanently connected and selfie obsessed society we live in now – but is it a good thing?

The mobile phone, with its myriad of apps and social media networks, allows us a constant way to escape.  Got a few minutes to kill whilst you wait for a bus?  Sign in and pretend to look busy so you don’t need to talk to the crazy lady behind you.  Waiting for your hazelnut latte? Now’s the perfect time to check what’s going on with Snap Chat.

Surely, if something is worth doing or seeing, it’s worth being present for.  Really present.  As in watching in real life, not through the lens of your mobile phone’s camera as you hit record, or distribute it live via Facebook.

Whilst some performers will no doubt relish that level of attention (and ultimately exposure via social media), others would no doubt rather perform to people’s faces, rather than the back of their phones.

Some festivals and concert venues have already taken the drastic steps of banning selfie sticks (which, thankfully, are falling out of favour somewhat) arguing they are far too distracting.  Whether you own one or not (and honestly, there’s no judgment) it’s hard to argue that you can really concentrate on what’s happening on a stage when you’re trying to suss out your best angle whilst waving a glorified broom handle above you.

The question is, should such items be banned, or are we taking it all a bit too seriously?  What right does anyone have to say what you can and can’t do (within reason) on a night out?  Where is the harm in the occasional photo, a way of recording a wonderful experience, literally capturing the moment?

It’s easy to argue that people can’t be giving a performance their full attention if they’re holding their phone up all night, but really, is it all that different from the gigs of yore?  If you’ve ever been to a festival or concert you will be aware of the need to visit the little girl (or boys) room, grab a drink, or goodness forbid, have a conversation with your fellow revellers.

Concerts are by their very nature the complete opposite of libraries.  They are noisy, loud, enthusiastic expressions of joy.  Is a mobile phone really that distracting in the overall scheme of things?

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