Appropriately, the lead singer led the way. Surrounded by security and eager fans, he weaved through the stadium, guiding his rag-tag band mates to the center of the floor. Lighting guys struggled to readjust spotlights for the impromptu crowd session, and the entire stadium came alive with a new kind of excitement and energy. Hundreds of fans rushed to pull out cell phones, desperate to catch a shot of the band up close.
Jeremy and I watched from our seats, too far away to really see the band well but close enough to feel the energy. After a few moments of getting set up, the first strains of an acoustic guitar quieted the crowd. The piano and cello joined in, building up tempo, and then suddenly, they all stopped.
“I’m gonna ask that you put away your cell phones.” The lead singer’s surprising request had the crowd breaking into giggles. He glanced around the auditorium and nodded. “No, seriously, just for this one song. Put away your phones and be present with us in this moment.”
Most of us did as he asked and that song turned out to be one of the best of the night. We were there with him in that moment, no picture-taking, no texting, no distractions. We were engaged.
Since that night a couple of weeks ago, I’ve thought about the lead singer’s words, about the beauty and intimacy of that moment, about the meaning of disconnecting from technology and connecting with the world around you.
These days so much of society is dictated by technology. So much of our lives are spent staring at television screens, computer screens, tablet screens, phone screens. If we were to add it all up, the minutes, hours, the days and weeks would shock us I’m sure. When I was trying to track my own phone usage the other day, I could barely keep up with the number of times I looked down at that tiny black box.
Jeremy and I used to watch other couple’s in restaurants, sitting right across the table from each other and staring down at their phones. We’d laugh that if we ever became that obsessed with our phones that we would need to just throw them away. Well, my friends, that day has come. Over the weekend, I had to fight the urge to check my phone during a lunch date with my husband and that realization was sickening.
I thought back to the concert a couple of weeks ago, to those few moments when I was completely engaged with the world around me, and I felt ashamed.
We held out for the longest time in getting smart phones; neither of us liked talking on the phone much. We didn’t care for texting, and we were fine with surfing the internet from the anchor of our laptop or desktop computer. But finally, when the rest of the world seemed to have left us behind, we buckled and purchased our first smart phones.
We’ve only had them since January, but in those six months, our lives and habits have changed drastically. Now, there’s never a moment of just sitting and waiting, just thinking and enjoying the world. Now, those moments are filled with facebooking and email-checking, with game-playing and googling. In some ways, the information and knowledge at our fingertips is wonderful; in some ways, I even feel like I’ve started learning more from the world around me because of this new reference tool that I carry around in my pocket.
But in much more distinct and impactful ways, I feel and sense a loss. A loss of time, of random thought and imagination, of simply being.
Over the last few days, I’ve made an effort to take that songwriter’s words to heart. I’ve made an effort to engage and exist in a moment without the aid of technology or a device. I’ve remembered what so many of us seem to have forgotten, that living doesn’t require a plug or charger or a wifi signal; it only requires us, our hearts and minds connected, engaged, and present.