Cell Phones at Concerts – The Bates Student

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If you follow independent music and gig news, you know that Twitter has exploded with heated debate over the past week. In a since-deleted tweet, alt-singer-songwriter Mitski asked his fans to consider cutting back on their cellphone use on his shows.

“I wanted to talk to you about phones in living rooms. They are part of our reality, I have mine on me all the time, and I’m not against taking pictures in living rooms (but if you please no flash lol) But sometimes when I see people filming whole songs or whole sets it feels like we’re not here together That goes both when I’m on stage and when I am a member of the public at shows,” she wrote to his 323,000 Twitter followers.

Although this may seem like a reasonable compromise for Mitsky at the request of her fans – after all, she is not asking for the outright cessation of cell phone use on her shows – the backlash was immediate. Tons of Twitter users began tweeting angrily at her, citing a number of reasons why they felt entitled to film her entire shows on their phones. The most common of these arguments argued that fans with mental health issues such as ADHD or dissociative tendencies may not remember all the details of the concert and should therefore be able to film the full show.

Mental health issues of all types are serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but neither should they be used as a scapegoat to do whatever you want without consequence. This leads to a negative stigma of mental illness everywhere, leading to the belief that people can use mental illness to excuse any behavior without disagreement. There are so many reasons why someone might not remember every detail of a gig – you might be drunk, sleep deprived, distracted or you might even just forget something. Brains are not meant to be video cameras. Artists don’t owe us the ability to see their performances live again and again for any reason, be it mental health related or literally anything else. The concerts are meant to be experienced in the moment; they are between an artist and their audience on a particular evening. It’s not about the details, it’s just about being in a space with an artist you love, surrounded by people who love them too.

Concerts aren’t the only events that could use a reduced cellphone presence. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m way too much on my phone, and I know I’m not the only one with this problem. One of my goals this year is to be more present in the moment; I haven’t been totally successful so far, but it’s something I intend to work on. Whether it’s feeling more connected at gigs like Mitski suggested or even just enjoying a distraction-free night with friends, taking a step back from cell phone use and not necessarily capturing every instant is something we should all be striving towards. Technology can and should be put to good use, but sometimes times can be better if we put our screens aside for a while.

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