Imagine for a moment: You're at a concert having a great time with friends. Your favorite song comes on. What happens next? Naturally, you sense the rectangular lump in your pocket calling out to you, "Go on... take a photo. Think of all the Instagram likes you'll rack up." If you're like me (or many of my friends), before you know it, you're left with an entire 10-series Instagram Story of photos and videos, and DMs full of jealous fellow fans. But what if you went to a show and (hear me out) didn't post a single photo? Would you cease to exist? Would you find yourself trapped in a pit of irrelevance? I needed answers, which is why I (a reluctant millennial) went to a concert and didn't post about it once. This is my story.
I knew I was going to commit to this experiment when my friend Brigid and I snagged tickets to see Muse at the Hollywood Palladium as part of Citi Sound Vault — an exclusive live music experience powered by Live Nation. For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles, the Hollywood Palladium is a legendary venue that's hosted everyone from Stevie Wonder to Jimi Hendrix, and even President John F. Kennedy. It's iconic.
I wasn't sure how I'd feel during the concert. I'm not generally someone who posts a ton of content anyway. Would that make it easier? Or, on the flip side, would it be hard to resist simply because I knew that I couldn't?
We got to the concert and I slipped my phone in my pocket right away to fight temptation. I even hid it in the smallest pocket — you know, the one that's so tight it makes you question if it's even worth the struggle to dig out. Brigid and I grabbed a drink and headed into the venue.
By some stroke of magic, we wounded up getting there early enough to plant ourselves dead center, right next to the stage. It's possibly the closest I've been to the stage in my lifetime. I'm not gonna lie, that detail did make it slightly more painful. I knew I was so close, that any photo I took would look incredible. I could have captured video that wasn't even slightly blurry. Admittedly, the content would have been flawless and the "likes" would have flown like a sweet, sweet river.
But as the concert rolled on, I found myself enjoying the show more without my phone. I danced more than ever. I never had to squeeze my drink between my knees to free up my hands. And since I wasn't trying to capture moments on a screen, I was able to talk about them with my friend, in real time. We laughed a ton and made memories — memories that only we'll have. Memories that'll bond us, uniquely, because no one online got to share in them with us.
If I'm being completely honest, I knew I'd see other people capturing content and, before the concert, part of me wondered if I'd feel smug watching the crowd indulge on their phones. But actually? It didn't make me feel smug. It made me feel sad. Because I was removed from the experience, it heightened my awareness. It made me realize just how compulsive our generation is about social media. People around me didn't capture one photo or video. They didn't even capture two, or three, our four. It was repetitive. Over, and over, and over again. For hours. Some people even started live streams — which is a thought I had never even considered before. All this, for a couple fleeting likes. It made me feel empty.
One study by MusicStats.org found that only 17 percent of concert-goers never take photos at shows. Not only is that number staggering, science suggests that taking photos can permanently impact your ability to make memories. Wild, right? Fairfield University psychologist Dr. Linda Henkel calls it a "photo-taking impairment effect," citing studies that have found that people who take photographs at concerts are less likely to remember them than those who refrain. Yikes. That means each time you take a photo, you're actually hurting – not helping – your memory-making capability.
Now, I'm not completely naive. I understand nuance. I know you can take a couple minutes to snap a couple of pics AND simultaneously make authentic, personal memories. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. That being said, taking a night off from curating my feed felt freeing. It was special because I experienced something that was only for me.
I think that's my biggest takeaway: We live in a culture that implies that every part of your life can be and should be shared. That's simply not true. Some things should be just for you. That's not only okay or healthy. It's special. Keep some experiences to yourself — not everyone deserves to share them with you.
So, next time you find yourself at a show, consider shoving your phone in that tiny, tight pocket. You might find yourself enjoying it more than you thought. Take it from me: your millennial-self will come out alive.