Living in the Moment vs. Recording the Moment
Two years ago I attended a concert with a friend who texted his way through most of it - he apparently had some very urgent message that simply couldn't wait. This is in sharp contrast to the days my wife and I go without communicating with each other when she's on the road, as the most riveting text I could probably come up with would be: "Just completed my fourth load of laundry. Love you!" My friend's interest in (euphemism for "addiction to") his backlit companion irked me for several reasons during the show, not the least of which was, "Can't you for two hours manage to enjoy the moment?"
Of course, one needn't have a cellphone (I don't) to fall victim to an electronic obsession. Cameras have often served as security blankets, as their owners worry more about documenting an occasion and less about actually participating in the occasion. And I'm not necessarily busting the chops of the photo enthusiast. I too have had spurts during which I was hell-bent on capturing a moment on film, but far too often these efforts resulted in a memory that exists only within the confines of the .jpeg files that seem to have obliterated my own capacity to remember. When I imagine a party I attended two summer's ago in Milwaukee, I don't imagine the party - I imagine the photo of the party that's saved on my computer.
With the advent of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter (not to mention self-indulgent blogs) our ability and desire to document that which is meaningless has never been stronger, and the results at live concerts haven't gone unnoticed. This week, the Wall Street Journal has a great article about differing sides of the video-taking coin. Some musical acts, like Radiohead, not only except fans taking concert videos, they encourage it and, in one case, even supplied the master recording for a fan's video project. Others groups attempt to limit those who take videos of their concerts, not so much because of the monetary ramifications, but because they believe that the concert-going experience should be sacrosanct, and hundreds of glowing cell-phones undermine the thrill of The Moment.
I've benefitted from those who've worked to capture a moment on film, and I've suffered for it as well. It isn't the no-brainer that some might make claim. When I see a parent texting at a park while a child begs for attention, I can't help but think that something's wrong with this picture. When I see a fan recording a concert, I can't help but wonder if it'll be posted on Youtube by morning.