Snapchat, Instagram distract from concert experience

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
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When Prince played the Fox Theatre two weeks ago, he banned the use of cell phones during his show. The edict was strictly enforced: anybody who even made a motion for their phone got a flashlight in their face and a stern warning from venue security, and those who were caught using their devices were given a personal escort out of the building.

Prince is notorious for being both protective of his image and Internet-phobic, so his stance on cell phone usage while he is on stage isn't surprising. But the move had a positive side effect: Fans in the audience were engaged with the show, not with their timelines, and it made for a more lively, energetic concert atmosphere.

Prince can get away with banning cell phones for the same reason he gets away with most things — because he's Prince. Other artists might face a revolt. If Ariana Grande had pulled a similar stunt last month during her concert at Joe Louis Arena, her young fans — many of whom spent the entirety of the show Tweeting, Snapchatting and Instagramming — wouldn't have known what to do with themselves.

This is how the majority of concerts are these days. Fans pay exorbitant amounts of money to go see their favorite artists live and then watch them through the screen of their phone. Take a picture, choose a filter, post it and watch the Likes roll in. Snap it to a friend who's not there, to prove that you are there. It has become more about the status of being at the concert than the reality of being at the concert. And the actual concert is passive entertainment, background noise.

We're all guilty of this. Pictures are great, and you want to get a good one — for yourself, for your friends, for your followers. But the picture is never going to look as clear as the stage does to your eye, the video is never going to sound as crisp as the concert does to your ears, and the experience of being at a live concert cannot be replicated or duplicated through a cell phone, no matter how good those cell phones get. The philosopher P.W. Herman once said, "take a picture, it will last longer." But make a memory, and it will last forever.

Memories are becoming antiquated in our digital age, like print newspapers and other things you can't click on. So much of the way we behave seems designed for others to consume and validate, as if something's worth is measured by how many Likes it gets on social media. In Madonna's "Truth or Dare," Warren Beatty roasted Madonna by criticizing her for not wanting to do anything that wasn't on-camera. At the time — 1991 — it was a biting commentary on the extreme vanity of a mega pop-star. Now it's an alarming number of us, everyday, living our lives through our phones, starring in our own reality shows and hoping everyone else enjoys them.

Summer concert season is approaching and the phones will be out in full force, during Taylor Swift at Ford Field and the Rolling Stones at Comerica Park. But as you're sitting 14 sections back and you're struggling to get that perfect shot of Keith Richards, know that you're not going to get that perfect shot of Keith Richards. You'll likely never look at all those pictures you're taking again. Shoot one, put your phone away and enjoy the concert.

Late in the Prince concert, Prince pulled an about-face and encouraged people to take out their phones to light up the room. He didn't have to ask twice. People reacted like they were getting their first access to water after a long drought, and while the lighting effect in the room was cool, people who were otherwise interacting with the show quickly switched back into zombie mode. Some opened up Facebook to see what was going on. It's doubtful anything on Facebook was better than the Prince concert going on in front of them.

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