On Thursday, March 22, I attended a concert at Van Andel Arena. While I enjoyed the music and atmosphere, I couldn’t help but notice the blanket of smartphones I was submerged in. Everyone around me was taking pictures or videos, watching the concert through their phone screens. While this is nothing new, and people have been using their phones at concerts for years, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed.
What is the point of seeing live music if you aren’t going to truly experience it? Today, we have an obsession with social media that has been growing and melding for a long time. We are always on our phones, and while that’s not always a bad thing, cell phones should have their time and place. As phones and technology have evolved, the boundaries of when to use versus when not to use has blurred; now, it seems like everyone lives through their screen, not taking enough time to truly live in the moment.
Concerts are supposed to be a time for artists and listeners to connect, and a time for listeners to show their appreciation and respect for the artist and his or her music. However, when smartphones are the only thing that fans and artists can see, there has become a disconnect, and the fans isolate themselves from the music. According to Roy Trakin in a 2017 article for GRAMMY, “Like everything else in our virtual universe, holding up an iPhone or Android at a concert is a way of putting an artificial distance between the observer and the observed, an intermediation that seemingly goes against the very spirit of the longed-for spontaneity of the rock and roll, EDM, pop, or hip-hop experience.”
To me, this separation becomes disrespectful to the artist. When you have your eyes locked on the phone you’re holding, you’re no longer listening to the performer.
Furthermore, when you go to a concert and spend the whole time looking through a screen, you’re untimely cheating yourself. If you’re busy recording or taking pictures, you won’t be able to engage and enjoy the concert in the same way that you would if you just watched. To me, life is all about moments that move you, and concerts are one of those moments. If you take the time to actually engage and experience it, live music can be emotional, powerful, and the experience can stay with you forever.
I have vivid memories of every concert that I have gone to. I remember the excitement I felt at my first concert, with Taylor Swift opening up for Rascal Flatts. I remember the sunset and stillness when Train performed “Hey, Soul Sister,” and I will absolutely never forget the sound of Tom Petty’s voice as he told stories and sang my favorite songs in the world. When you pay attention at a concert, it almost feels as if the artist is singing to you, for you, and everything else disappears. Today, in a smartphone world, I encourage you to treat concerts as an escape. The live performance will always be better than the video.