The most recent batch of smartphone ads have a common theme. You know the form: plinky plonky piano music, people of all nations in colourful jumpers, all of them with excellent teeth, warehouse apartments and impressive taste in extra-curricular pastimes. And, of course, all of them constantly taking photos.
There’s someone on a skateboard, there’s someone jumping up and down on a bed, there’s a man on stage at a gig!
Thank God it’s only an advert. Except reality is catching up fast.
It was back in July that it really hit me. The first (and probably last) time I'd seen The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger warbling and vibrating at the front of the stage, while Ronnie and Keith had a guitar off behind him. The sun setting over a balmy Hyde Park. It was a moment. Everyone around me sensed we wouldn’t have this particular scene in front of us ever again.
So out came the phones. Some were out already of course, then a few more, pockets being checked, photo settings being corrected, red lights blinking, videos set to record.
“Just ignore it,” I told myself. Keep your focus, enjoy the present.
Then the arms went up in front of me, blocking the view. An iPad or two surfaced a few rows ahead.
Such was the chain reaction that people who hadn’t planned to take photos were starting to wonder if maybe they were missing out.
Soon the doubt kicked in and I too was prodding at my phone to find the camera app and frame a grainy image of the tiny figures on stage through a sea of heads and hands. Too late. The song finished, the moment faded, the memories irreparably sullied. And it was my round.
Yes, phone technology is incredible, having cameras in our pockets is astonishing and the ability to document our lives is full of possibilities. But let's get a grip.
What do we actually think we are capturing here? Dark, miles away, blurred, wonky, some other bloke’s iPhone obscuring your view.
At best, that shaky video might get a tumbleweed slot on YouTube accruing 29 views. Or most likely never looked at by you or anyone else again, destined to join a vast data graveyard of stolen moments.
Presumably huge swathes of planet Earth are being mined to find the requisite minerals to create the memory cards required so we can keep firing off endless shots of the back of our mate’s head.
The logical conclusion is that we value securing evidence of “having a life” far higher than the actual experience of what’s happening in front of us.
If there is a genuinely special moment happening, whether it's a gig, sporting event or bar mitzvah, perhaps we should try to actually experience it first hand with our own two eyes instead of distracting and detaching ourselves and everyone else through a tiny screen.
Commit it to memory and be happy in the knowledge that we were there and soaked it up in all its present-tense detail, and didn't miss it because we were deleting shots of the last gig we went to to free up memory space.
Either that or get a phone with a decent flash.