Recently, at a show in NYC, I witnessed something first-hand that was, for me, symptomatic of a larger trend riddled with irony. As the headlining band was playing, arms seemed to sprout up all around me. Each pair was trying to steady a camera or Iphone at their apex. Movement to the rhythm ceased as the occasional flash went off from the less inhibited (or tech-savy). Shortly after, you have the customary proof-reading, marked by faces angled downward towards the illumination of their little toys.
What made this noteworthy for me, was not only the sheer number of people engaging in this pursuit, but the fact that it never subsided--it lasted the entire show. People constantly stopped dancing or really even moving in a relentless effort to snap not just a good shot, but many good shots. It got to the point where I almost felt bad for the band, who at one point proclaimed that they, "like it when people dance." Dancing becomes a little more constrained when someone behind you is dangling a camera over your head (I found myself fighting the urge to "accidentally" bump into the person at the moment they released the shutter).
Call me a killjoy, but it seemed that the audience on the whole was more concerned with documenting the show, rather than enjoying it. And nevermind that a whole slew of pictures from actual photographers (who, let's be honest, probably got better pictures anyway) will be posted on websites like Brooklyn Vegan the next day. This conjures up some interesting questions; At what point does documenting the experience detract from it? Has the act of digitally recording events trumpted experiencing them? What gives rise to this modern need to click and record anything and everything?
Documenting events, either via camera or video, does seem to be almost a univeral endevour among those with the means to afford the equipment. There are just some moments and events that are so special to us, so amazing and awe-inspiring, that they warrant documenting. Hence you have the eager father-to-be videotaping the birth of his first child, the family vacation photos, the graduates posing next to some iconic statue in cap and gown, etc. However, with the rise of relatively cheap digital cameras and cell phones with both video and photo capabilities, the line between what is worth documenting and what is not is increasingly blurry. This is especially true with digital media, which, unlike film, allows the user to view photos immediately, delete unwanted ones, and store them cheaply and easily.
If you have the technology on you at all times, well then why not record anything remotely interesting or funny or unique? God-forbid that anything truely noteworthy should happen in front of us without it being captured (alas, an opportunity lost in the age of overnight Youtube sensations). This technology may after all, offer many of us the only real means of being recognized and remembered after death.
Certain things in life do deserve a picture to preserve the moment, to allow others to see how it was, or to communicate something inneffible that defies words. However, we need to be more conscious of how the persuit of documenting everything can take away from the enjoying the actual experience. Documenting important events should be an adendum; a means to an end, as opposed to an end in and of itself. The point of life is to not to just record it (although it may seem that way some times). Perhaps this modern phenomenon to document life could be indicative of the failure of modern society to fulfil our needs to be recognized and legitimized in a world that can at times seem alienating. Whatever the case, we should try not to let the need to capture the moment usurp it.