At the end of the first night of the Paul McCartney concert, the crowd began to sing along to “Hey Jude.” People stood and swayed, and belted out the “Na na na nas.” It was one of those shared experiences that don’t happen as often anymore.
I was feeling great until I looked a few rows down and saw a college-age couple who were singing and swaying as well, but they had their phone in front and were recording themselves singing, most likely for Snapchat. I immediately wanted to tell them, “Put down your damn phone! Paul is the performer here, not you.” But then my mind started to focus on how dumb these kids were and not enjoy the great song itself. I did my best to push it out of my mind and just focus on the singing.
I used to be pro-anti-phone use, but who I am to tell people what moments of their lives to record? Who am I to tell “young people” when or when not to use their phone? News flash: Baby Boomers use their phone all the time, too. My bathroom at the office is shared with a few other spaces that bring in dozens of lawyers for meetings. If you head into the bathroom during one of their breaks, many of them will be either emailing or talking on their phones, in the bathroom, while they’re urinating. I get that lawyers are busy, but come on. Recording yourself during Paul McCartney seems downright noble after seeing that.
Just let people have fun how they want to have fun. Yeah, it’s annoying to go to a concert and see a few dozen glowing screens while people are playing. (I even saw a woman reading a long, intense email during Paul’s encore. Like that couldn’t wait 10 minutes?) But are you going to go around to each person and tell them to turn off their phone? No. Just relax. Control your own phone habits, not anyone else's
There is one place where I find phone usage infuriating—church. I see people whip out their phones as soon as the final note is over. They don’t even wait to leave the pews. Come on.
I don’t think the constant phone usage is a good thing, it’s just the new standard. After speaking with some of my teacher friends last week, I’ve learned that phones are just part of the classroom in some instances. They don’t even try to take them away. I don’t blame them. Would you spend most of your lesson trying to be the phone police instead of teaching?
I think the best way to combat this is to control your own phone usage. I love the hours when I throw my phone in a drawer and forget about it. It’s relaxing. I can concentrate on something else.
The ubiquitous phone usage is scary and I worry how it will—literally—change our brains, but it’s not as scary as many people make it out to be. People still have joy, frustration, and sorrow, they just express it differently. And that’s always been true for every generation.