On the inability to be “in the moment”

I was overjoyed to attend a Jose Gonzalez gig last night at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, and I was delighted when the venue made an announcement requesting that no photos be taken during the performance.

For the first 30 minutes or so, I really appreciated that there was no one holding phones aloft recording bad videos with poor sound or taking inevitably blurry photos.

However, I noticed that the guy in the seat next to me was constantly fidgeting, and after about 30 minutes he started “surreptitiously” taking out his phone and taking photos.

For the rest of the show he couldn’t let more than a couple of minutes go by without taking out his phone again.

Whilst I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t help but be aware that he was:

  • Chatting on WhatsApp
  • Recording audio and sending on WhatsApp
  • Taking videos
  • Taking photos

I was tempted, multiple times, to tell him to put the fucking thing away, but in the end I decided to just try to ignore it as best I could, slightly shifting in my seat to try and put the bright screen out of view.

I couldn’t help feeling a little sad though. It seemed impossible for him to just be there in the moment and enjoy it.

And as much as you try to ignore it, it is definitely distracting when a screen lights up in your field of vision.

It gives me a great respect for venues that have banned photo taking during shows. For example Berghain, and some other Berlin clubs, put a sticker over your phone camera when you enter the venue. Furthermore, they enforce it whenever some transgresses, taking them outside and explaining the policy in detail. In these cases, I think they have this policy so that club-goers can feel more at ease about being “free” in how they act without worrying about a photo of them going up online later on and causing issues with employees.

However, I think it has that side benefit of giving people freedom to focus on enjoying the moment instead of disconnecting from their place and viewing it through a screen and a “share”.

I wish some venues would go further and require people to deposit their phone in a free locker. If you really need to send a message or check the internet, you can pick up your phone and step outside.

It’s a joy to forget about the connected world for a short while. Savour it.

Did I take some photos? Yes, I took a shot of the stage before the show, but really I don’t think I’ll have any problem remembering this experience. One in which I was (nearly) fully immersed – barring that is, for the antics of the moron to my right.

/old man rant?