There is much to praise about technology. Cell phones and tablet computers have united people like never before, allowing us to share information and communicate at lightning speed. But such devices also have a major pitfall: they distract us from the here and now.
It is now common to see fans at sporting events using iPads to capture the perfect snapshot. Concertgoers record musical performances to share with friends or replay once the live show is over; they take hundreds of pictures of their favorite artists, only to put the best one through a Technicolor filter and share it with their Instagram followers. In the midst of all this capturing, recording, and sharing, have we lost the ability to enjoy the present?
Recognizing technology's capacity to change a musical experience, many artists are "asking fans to put the phones away and enjoy the show live," reported USA Today. These artists are particularly addressing millennials, whose reliance on mobile apps and devices borders on obsession. According to USA Today, She & Him, the band of Zooey Deschanel and Matthew Ward, posted fliers at their concerts that read, "at the request of Matt and Zooey, we ask that people not use their cellphones to take pictures and video, but instead enjoy the show they have put together in 3D."
In addition to altering the live concert experience for those recording it, the use of smartphones and tablets causes annoyance to fans who would like to watch their favorite musicians without being distracted by flashing cameras or having an iPad obstruct their view. While paying fans should be able to document an event, many do so without regard for other attendees.
"It is very obnoxious and can be difficult to see the show through a phone," Janet Vertesi, a sociology professor at Princeton, told USA Today. The newspaper also quoted Mackenzie Kuester, student and frequent concertgoer at Emerson College, who recalled a recent experience at a concert by indie-pop band Never Shout Never: "there were so many crazy people pushing trying to get the perfect picture. I've never been so scared for my life. It takes away from the whole thing."
The live music scene is just one example of how the millennial generation's reliance on technology is impacting all facets of life. Whether recording a concert or simply walking in the street, many have become so attached to their cell phones and mobile apps that they simply cannot put them down.
In fact, technological devices have become so ingrained in our everyday lives that it seems foreign and uncomfortable to be without them. Teenagers who have come of age in this era of technology have been conditioned to multitask like never before. They will do their homework while talking with one friend on Facebook, video chatting with another friend on Skype, and texting five others on their phone.
When I was growing up, one of the most strictly enforced rules in my home was that phones weren't allowed at the dinner table. My mother would insist that my siblings and I could spend 30 minutes sitting at the dinner table with our family and discuss our days, free from the distractions of technology. And she was right. Even though that is a lesson I have taken to heart, I, like many of my peers, am often still guilty of giving in to technological distractions and allowing them to remove me from the present.
Just today, I saw a friend post a Facebook status that read, "Technology sucks. Computer crashed. Phone in water." Her words strike at the heart of the issue. We rely on technology to such an extent that we cannot stand to be without it. We have forgotten what it feels like to live without a cell phone in hand, and without the ability to browse the internet with the click of a button.
I am always shocked at how relieved and free I feel when I lose cell phone service. After a few minutes of anxiety and discomfort about being "disconnected," it is a breath of fresh air to be unreachable, free from being a slave to technology.
Smartphones, tablets, the internet, and social media are all remarkable technological innovations that have revolutionized the way that people interact and make their voices heard. Like all things, however, their benefits must be enjoyed in moderation.