Selfies, Social Media and Sarah McLachlan

My sweet mother and I at Wolf Trap last Saturday night.

My sweet mother and I at Wolf Trap last Saturday night.

My mom and I went to see Sarah McLachlan at Wolf Trap on Saturday night. It was a great night to be on the lawn, and a lovely show. (By the way, just how much Wolf Trap picnic food is provided by Trader Joe’s? A LOT.)

I’ve got technology on the brain these days as I work on my book, so I was interested in how people were experiencing the concert with and through their smartphones.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Wolf Trap, but I’ve seen the norms change dramatically even during that time. Whipping out one’s phone to send a text or check Facebook used to be rare and (I sensed) frowned upon. By now it’s the norm, at least on the lawn.

One of the great things about live music is the way it knits together audience and performer as a community, albeit for a limited time and in a particular place. Does the use of social media expand that community, or does it dilute the overall experience? Or are both possible? (I think you know I’m a Both kinda gal.)

Before I go further, let me say this: the vast majority of cell phone usage I saw was from people who were way older than I am. So those of you clearing your throats for your “kids today” lecture, save it. This is a seriously intergenerational phenomenon now.

Here are some ways I witnessed people using their phones during the concert… or did so myself.

  • Looking up Sarah’s Wikipedia page to see how old she is, because she looks amazing. (She’s 46)
  • Taking notes on her setlist, presumably to download tunes later, or create a playlist.
  • Googling the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, a free program for underserved kids in the Vancouver area that provides high-quality music programs and lessons at no charge, which Sarah mentioned during the show.
  • Random checking of social media during the slow moments.
  • Texting friends to say, “I’m here watching Sarah McLachlan and remembering so happily our Lilith Fair days.” (That was me. Shoutout to K and G)
  • Receiving a photo of one’s children proudly displaying the awards they received at the swim team picnic that evening. (Also me.)
  • Lifting up glowing screens during the slow songs, with or without the benefit of the Candle app.
  • Recording snippets of songs to share with friends.

My guess is that some of those activities seem legit to you, and others make you bristle. Which ones and why?

It should be said, I could’ve done without the gals in front of me taking repeated selfies after it got dark… with the flash.

I also could’ve done without the people next to me talking loudly during much of the first act. Oh yeah, that has nothing to do with smartphone use. But wait! I thought technology was the downfall of polite civilization! You mean people can be boorish and rude without benefit of their cell phones? Get outta here! 😉

6 thoughts on “Selfies, Social Media and Sarah McLachlan

  1. Carla Gorrell

    The phone uses you listed wouldn’t bother me. (Is it legal to record songs during a performance?) You didn’t list phones ringing or people talking on the phone during the performance. That would really bother me.

    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      Good point! There was NO talking on phones.

      I thought recording was prohibited at such things, but they didn’t make an announcement, and it would be hard to enforce on the lawn.

  2. Yvette

    It must have been “concert with parents” on Saturday! I took my dad to see Billy Joel on Saturday night. We were both on our phones taking the selfies, videos of our favorite songs…I even used Wikipedia to find out more about our opening act, Gavin Degraw, and to confirm an actress from The West Wing was seated a couple rows in front of us. And of course, sending Matt a million messages checking in on Barrett since it was only the second time in his life I missed bedtime! All that caused my battery to die, so when I actually needed my phone to tell Matt that Metro was packed, a portion of 495 was closed, and not to expect me home before 2am, I didn’t have it….but I have tons of less than stellar videos of The Piano Man!

  3. Katherine

    This is tangential, but one of the biggest – really, one of the ONLY – fights I’ve ever gotten into with my best friend was when she dared to talk during an Over the Rhine concert. Like, repeatedly. Enough to tell a story. I can’t even.


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