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Have We Forgotten How to Be Present?

Large crowd at a Taylor Swift concert at night time

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to accompany my 10 year old daughter, Caitlin, to Taylor Swift’s 1989 concert. This was 12 months in the making, with my wife spending hours online trying to secure tickets for a very excited young lady.

So there we were, the last concert of Tay Tay’s epic world tour and I tell you, there’s not much scarier than a stadium full of 30,000 screaming teenagers and their equally, if not more excited mums to put the fear of God into a middle aged man.

Thankfully, we were far enough removed from the stage (in fact, about as far removed as you could be) to escape most of the madness.

Bearing in mind that the last concert I went to was Boys II Men back in 1994, the scale of this production blew me away. From the giant screens (only way I knew it actually was Taylor Swift on stage) to the great big extendable runway platform stage contraption, right through to the inevitable pyrotechnic conclusion, this was an assault on the senses.

The audience itself was quite interesting. I was expecting a human avalanche of teeny boppers (are they still called this) and wasn’t disappointed, but there was also her legion of tweenie fans and a generous smattering of kinder aged kids. Among the borderline manic crowd were contingents of mums, obviously there under the pretext of ‘accompanying their daughters’… a rouse that would’ve worked had they not also come draped in costumes and fairy lights. Then… the Dads. All with similarly sheepish looks, holding tightly to daughters’ hands for security. Looking out to the crowd in the hope they’ll find some familiar, safe, face, but at the same time muttering “please don’t let anyone see me. Please don’t let anyone see me.” I know. I was one of them.

When the main event finally started, some 2 hours after supposed kick-off, AAMI Park erupted. Even us Dads were bopping away to some of the year’s biggest hits. Then I looked across to the 3 teenage girls sitting next to me and quite literally, was blown away.

They were experiencing the entire concert through a 9cm x 5cm screen, taking videos/photos of a stage about 90m away and snapchatting their friends. It was literally take photo, select friends, send. Rinse, repeat. And they weren’t the only ones.

On the one hand, I thought to myself, gee what a waste of time trying to get these tickets and not really experience the concert for all it had to offer. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder how often we actually enact some version of this in our daily lives.

Our personal devices are meant to help us connect to the world, but in so many ways they’ve disconnected us from life. My wife and I often chuckle when we see a group at dinner and every one of them is on their phones. When the food comes, out come the phones again and it’s a photo of the plate that goes onto Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever it is people use these days.

Not that I’m immune from this need to be connected. To the point where we now have a rule where phones can’t be on us at meal time. Try it sometime… if you grew up with a crackberry addiction, you’ll find this quite hard to do initially.

My point, if I have one, is that in our incessant quest to be in touch, to be connected, we’ve lost our ability (in varying degrees) to experience life. To live in the moment and enjoy the moment. So this Christmas, try something… turn off your phones, turn off your TV and tablets. When you talk to your family and friends, talk to them and actively listen. Don’t take a photo of the turkey, but look at it… then enjoy the taste of it with your tastebuds, not your 8 megapixel phone camera.

Unplug. And reconnect.

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