I recently went to a concert at the O2 Arena in London and I literally had the best time ever. The artist I went to see wasn’t even someone that I was a big fan of, but the excitement of being in the arena and having the music pulsing through my body made me fall in love with everything that I was watching. For almost two hours of my existence, I sang and danced and soaked up every second of the experience. The lights and the staging were amazing and it was thrilling to be within a few metres of an international star.
But there was one thing that I noticed that was different about my experience and that of about 90% of the rest of the audience; and that was that my phone was in my bag for the entire show. At no point did I pull it out to start filming what was going on in front of me. Instead, having spent a small fortune on tickets and travel, I decided that I would prefer to actually watch the performance.
As one of the slower songs began to play I did take a look across the arena at my fellow audience members to see a forest of phones being held up and the owners of the phones spending a great deal of time and effort trying to get a good shot of the action on stage. The friend that I went to the concert with reached into her bag for her phone so that she too could do some amateur filming at a moment when there was an epic key change. This triggered an astonishing display of indoor pyrotechnics and she missed them all as she foraged around in her bag.
As we left the arena at the end of the concert I couldn’t help but wonder how many hours worth of performance was collectively missed as other people delved into their bags or peered at the action through tiny screens. And for what purpose?
It was the question of purpose that was most disturbing when I sat down and really thought about it. These people were not very likely to watch their shitty little video that couldn’t possibly have picked up the pop star on stage clearly. So why were they missing the live action to try and film it? Because they wanted to post it on social media; that’s why! And will their friends watch the shitty little video with poor sound quality? No, because they really don’t care.. And if they do watch the grainy images then all they’ll feel is either complete indifference or jealousy. And it’s the jealousy that we are aiming for when we use our phones like this.
I wasn’t filming at the concert but I’ve certainly done this before; not living in the moment because I want a good photo that I can put on Facebook. But it was on that evening that I really understood how much the world has changed over the last decade and what the effects must be on our general happiness. It feels like we are paying for concert tickets so that we can brag rather than really enjoy these special moments in life.
But how do we change it and will changing it make us any happier? I’m no psychologist but I have lived a life prior to social media and I would say that we need to have more intrinsic drives rather than extrinsic ones. Social media conditions us to show off and get rewarded with likes. However, if you don’t get the likes you are left feeling a little flat and deflated. If we can go back to the old way, where we get more of a buzz from enjoying things because WE like them rather than hoping THEY like it, then surely we have more control over that buzz?
I may be completely wrong but I have a feeling that this control over our own feeling and a lack of fucks given over what others think would probably improve our mental health exponentially. This could extend to so many areas of our life. For example, do the low paid job that you enjoy rather than the high paid one that your family expect. Or don’t buy the branded trainers that you hope will make you look cool. Instead you could put the money towards going out for a nice meal or a couple of trips to the cinema; anything that you really enjoy and that gives you warm and fuzzy feelings.
So next time you’re tempted to do something just because you think your friends and family will appreciate it, ask yourself whether it’s really what you want too. If you find yourself missing things so you can post on Instagram maybe it’s time to put down the phone and start living in the real world where it’s much more fun!