Put the Damn Phones Away: How Social Media is Ruining Concert Culture

One of the less terrible iPhone photos I've ever taken at a concert, and it's still awful. Yours are probably just as bad.
One of the less terrible iPhone photos I've ever taken at a concert, and it's still awful. Yours are probably just as bad.
Josh Chesler

Almost every concert I go to, I spend the better portion of at least two songs attempting to take a semi-decent photo with my iPhone. Whether it's actually getting published with a review of the show or simply going on Instagram is irrelevant, the point is I actually miss a portion of the concert I'm attending in order to get a less blurry photo of the performance happening on stage.

Live music is supposed to be viewed live. Whether it's in a garage or the biggest fairgrounds on the planet, being in the presence of music being performed (at least reasonably) well is a different experience than consuming audio any other way. It's not just the music, it's not just the visuals, it's not just the crowd, it's the atmosphere.

By attending a show and then spending the bulk of it posting photos and videos to Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat, and whatever other apps are out there, you're totally missing the point of going to a concert in the first place.

This isn't to say you shouldn't take a photo or two (or a short video clip) to earn your social media cred or make your friend who "has to work the next morning" jealous. What I am saying is if you record more than one song (really, a chorus will suffice) or lift your phone to take dozens of soon-to-be-filtered pictures during every other song, you're part of the problem.

Why is documenting too much of a concert a bad thing? Well, let's start with the obvious. How many people do you really know who will want to watch that grainy seven-minute video of Marilyn Manson's extended version of "Lunchbox" shot from 200 feet away? What about all those blurry shots of 2 Chainz you got where someone's head is blocking half of the photo anyway?

Anyone who's willing to sit through your shoddy videos and photos is only doing so because they're too nice to tell you they don't care. Concerts are like vacations, post a couple of poorly framed self-centered photos on social media so everyone can see how cool you are and be done with it. You're not going to be able to hear the audio clearly anyway, so it's not like recording the entirety of the Get Up Kids' set will allow you to relive their set repeatedly until they (probably) decide to tour again in a few years.

Aside from having hundreds of photos no one will ever see and hours of shaky videos you'll never watch (seriously, where do these people get the phone storage to have all of that?), you're also taking yourself out of the experience of the concert by quite a bit.

Go ahead and ask one of your photographer buddies (the kind with a real camera, not just a phone) about looking at life through the lens, and they'll probably tell you about the disconnect you feel when seeing something right in front of you through a camera compared to the naked eye. It's part of what lets photographers get super awesome shots of extremely traumatic experiences.

When you watch a concert through a smartphone (or other camera) instead of with your own naked eyes and senses, you're distancing yourself from the show. If you're spending your hard-earned money and time to go see a concert, do you not want the full experience? Your iPhone (or Android) can't capture the sticky floors and crusty stench of dried sweat mixed with stale beer. Your Instagram won't show the energy coming from the perfect DJ or the thump in your chest from a double bass drum. Frankly, decades from now when you're telling your kids (or grandkids) about the time you saw Jack White, Social Distortion, Calvin Harris, or Ghostface Killah, it's going to sound a lot cooler coming out of your wrinkled old mouth rather than searching the Internet (or whatever new technology comes out) to find pixelated shots from devices that have been outdated for years.

On top of everything else, taking photos and videos mean you won't be able to give your all to dancing, moshing, singing, applauding, or whatever else you might want to do during a show. Oh, and you'll definitely seem like the biggest douchebag to everyone behind you who just wants to see Refused or Del the Funky Homosapien but is blocked out by your stupidly large phone.

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Maybe I (at the ripe, old age of 25) sound like Clint Eastwood yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but seriously, social media photos and videos have gone too far. They're turning shows into the worst-ever photography competition and ruining concert culture.

Keep your phones in your pocket as much as possible during a set, and leave the photographic record-keeping to those in the photo pit.

And, whatever you do, don't get me started on those damn selfie sticks.

See also 10 Punk Albums to Listen to Before You Die 10 Goriest Album Covers 10 Most Satanic Metal Bands

Follow us on Twitter @ocweeklymusic. Like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality.


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