Over the summer, I attended two concerts with my girlfriend: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Blenheim Palace in June and Lana Del Rey at the O2 Brixton Academy in July. Across the course of both concerts, we took one photo between us – a close-up shot of Del Rey as she ventured towards the right side of the front of the stage where we stood. I remember both nights vividly. What I also remember vividly is the blinding wave of light, as hundreds of smartphones shone up at the pop star unflinchingly throughout the evening. It made me question how our digestion of real life and experience has become distorted by technology and the competitive nature of social media, no doubt catalysed by the onset of the Snapchat ‘story’. Camera phones are no longer a portal to memories but a barrier.
Secondly, I sometimes question why people even get their camera phones out in the first place. As the Blenheim Palace concert drew to a close, the night erupted into a booming salvo of fireworks as the Star Wars theme sound tracked a display of July 4th proportions. I, like the majority of the audience, was wowed by the fireworks but at the same time I’ve seen fireworks dozens of times. It wasn’t an occasion that was worthy of a video recording. The woman in front of me clearly felt differently – as she did on four or five occasions during the evening, updating her ‘story’ as the night progressed. I’ve always been against video recording at events, but documenting something so everyday as a firework display is not enhancing your experience, it’s sabotaging it. And more often than not, with your hands held high, documenting the same video as the 20 people either side of you and the other 200 people in the room, you’ll probably be ruining the view for the unfortunate person behind you.
“To exist in the moment without technological assistance is an experience of its own and I think that’s something many of us forget sometimes.”
But I’m not completely averse to documentation; sometimes what’s going on in front of you really is worth seeing again and again. It’s also nice to have that image frozen in time, the proof that says I was there when this or that happened. But I certainly feel that we live in an age where the belief is that the memory will only be captured if it’s done via a smartphone or camera. If an iPhone or camera is the means by which we lock in a memory, are we even truly creating that memory or are we actually blocking that process of remembrance from happening in our minds?
To exist in the moment without technological assistance is an experience of its own and I think that’s something many of us forget sometimes. It is great to have photos and videos for our own nostalgic enjoyment or for just pure smugness in the presence of friends and family. But for me, right now technology is not a helpful tool in the construction of memory. It hinders the feel of memory and how our senses grasp the enormity of something truly unforgettable happening. On top of that, the notion of filming everything and anything you experience ultimately blurs the lines between the great and the mundane. So next time you’re in the midst of something truly remarkable, leave your phone in your pocket and let the memories make themselves.