Picture of Man With Bic Lighter at Rock Concert Goes Viral

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According to a study by The Hollywood Reporter, a majority of moviegoers ages 18-to-34 believe using social media while watching a movie in the theater would make their experience more enjoyable, and nearly half would be interested in going to theaters that allowed texting and web-surfing during a screening.

A growing number of theaters and performing groups across the USA are setting aside “tweet seats,” in-house seats for patrons to live-tweet during performances, including the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, N.C., and the Dayton Opera in Dayton, Ohio.

Desperate times call for crazy measures.

I was recently at a Coldplay concert ( ummm, girlfriend’s birthday) and at the apex of the encore of the world’s biggest band, with confetti raining down from the rafters, with 18,000 bracelets lit up in the dark and with lead singer Chris Martin bathed in sweat and pouring out the most energy I’ve ever seen a human being muster, I couldn’t help noticing the girl a few seats down.  Texting.  In that oh-so-familiar texter’s trance.

And her friend next to her.

And the guy two rows in front.

And the couple to our left.

Actually, they might have been tweeting. Or facebooking.  Or pinterest’ing.

This “present but not engaged” effect is an increasing site at sporting events, movies, catch up coffees with long lost friends, weddings and I imagine, these days, funerals.

We are everywhere at once and nowhere all the time.

At this point in the conversation, the technology zombies will scoff.  The more defensive will assume that you’re a technology rebel, that you’re “old school” and a “dinosaur”, rather than simply questioning current technology’s stranglehold on our attention.

The young’uns, with their gadgets in hand 24/7, grasped in pre-arthritic bird claw clenches, tend to give blank stares to any questioning of the need to sleep with one’s iPhone.

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In Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows”, he talks about this culture of distraction, citing the neurological differences that have been charted in the human brain as a result of the increasing use of social media and portable devices.  The ability to focus in a linear fashion for a lengthy period of time is being compromised by our seeming inability to compartmentalize the use of our gadgets.  We can’t seem to put them aside in favor of being engrossed in the moment and concurrently, studies are starting to solidify the findings that anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation are on the rise.

Author Fran Lebowitz, from her recent documentary:  ”If you’re doing this” ( she pantomimes a person typing into a little box on a little gadget),  “That’s where you are. These machines allow people to not be wherever they are and since I have none of these machines, I’m forced to be where I am all the time.’” Ms.Lebowitz, who does not own a cell phone, believes that she is the only one who experiences the streets of New York City when she stands outside her Manhattan apartment or sits on a park bench.

Must be a powerful drug, these devices of ours.  We can’t seem to put them away and focus on the beauty of a singer’s voice, the commitment of the impassioned actor, the awesome physics of the athlete, or something as benign, as say, well….driving a car?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any of us actors who have been distracted on stage by a ringing phone or a flash of light from the audience know well the rage that can boil within at that moment.

A lesser but still profound emotion exists within me whenever I’m a spectator at live entertainment, or  bathed in the darkness of the movie house, or at Game 7 of The Stanley Cup Finals (yep) and a goodly percentage of the viewers simply cannot be won, cannot be engrossed, cannot be a captive part of what was once a communal and exciting human experience.  I must accept what I cannot change so I plunge ahead, trying to put my blinders on and enjoy what’s in front of me in isolation of my surroundings.  I tell myself, like one does when flies land on the skin in measures beyond avoidance – “Keep calm, these bugs are really not all that irritating.  Mind over matter.”

I suppose it’s not an emotion singular, but rather a mix of anger, sadness and resignation at the loss of an age when we could come together and be hypnotized by the moment at hand.  The loss will never be recognized by the generations who never knew what it was to experience a largesse to human communion, but I feel it deeply.

Am I alone?

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”.  How many times has that been tweeted today?

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2 Replies to “Picture of Man With Bic Lighter at Rock Concert Goes Viral”

  1. I love that you ended that with a quote from a villanelle — itself a style of poetry that evolved into a form so rigid it’s largely been abandoned by contemporary poets. Is our quiet, shared communal experience heading that way?

    I understand that the idea of a quiet audience in the dark is a relatively new one, but its given us a gift of story telling that just wasn’t possible before electric lighting. I think I’d miss the quiet, tightly focused story telling it allows more than the quiet, respectful space. Of course, theatres need to realize that the plays they put on must compliment the use of of tweeting. Tweeting during a panto? Go wild. That might actually be a lot of fun. Have a live projection that displays them during the show. Tweeting during Trapped in a Zoo with a Bengal Tiger? Piss off. I haven’t seen a lot of careful selection of material to compliment tweetseats while I’ve been in the States and that makes me worry that the idea will be rejected outright by those of us resistant to change when, who knows, it might have a lot of potential?

    Mind you, tweeting during a panto means that you’re still engaged with the performance. This is what upsets me the most about social media during live spectacle, it allows the audience to force the experience to be about themselves. Communal willful suspension of disbelief goes right out the window when the real story is how you’re at a play crying, or the guy playing Willy Loman flubbed a line and you noticed. It’s the narcissism of it that drives me ballistic, more than the stab of bright light.

    At the end of the day, I don’t know how to encourage people to be more present, nor do I have any good ideas to get butts in seats.

    “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard.” How many times has that been tweeted today?

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