You’re on a night out having a great time. All your friends made it in, your favourite act is about to come on, and the warm-up DJ is on point.
Everything is leading to this moment, when suddenly, a sea of phones appears, blocking your view.
No longer content to simply enjoy our nights out, we’re hooked on making sure we show the world how much fun we had. But it’s a new year, and this needs to change.
Dance music’s most famous no camera zone stands tall right here in Berlin. Berghain’s strict anti-photo policy is so tight they’ll take your phone right out of its protective case (if you’ve got one) and place a small, round sticker on both the front and back cameras to ensure your cooperation.
It’s strict, but has obvious benefits. Mostly, it allows for a “what happens in Berghain, stays in Berghain mentality,” which is a big part club’s appeal. Visitors there, and at clubs like Output in America, feel free to completely express themselves away from the prying eyes of social media—exactly what the majority of ‘going out’ photos and videos are taken for.
Of course, the freedom felt inside the hallowed walls of Berghain is only one side effect of a camera free club. As we well know, phones aren’t just cameras we can talk into. They connect us to the world in ways we hardly think about anymore. They’re email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Skype all rolled into one—apps that, for me at least, signal responsibility.
Pull my phone out for a quick snap of the DJ and I’m likely to notice a few unread Facebook messages, a "where r u" text, a few emails from my boss, and a Skype notification informing me a friend’s birthday. Far too easily I’ll excitedly think, “Oh, look at that! I’ll just give them a cheeky hello from the party, they’ll love it!”
Then suddenly 15 minutes have gone by. I’ve missed three songs, the girl I was flirting with is bored with me and I still haven’t taken the damn photo. Worse of all, now my head is right where it shouldn’t be: the real world. The one place we’re all trying to leave behind on a night out. The nights when we actually get off the couch, away from our computers and leave the house to see our favourite musician.
And the very fact that we've left the house at all should give us pause when thinking about pulling out our phones in the first place.
In fact, it’s the ability to see your favourite artist without a screen in front of your face that’s extraordinary about going out these days, but becoming less so.
I remember many a summer night in Ibiza when the headline act would take the stage. It was the same sight time and time again—a sea of phones as far as the eye could see lighting up the entire crowd like lighters at a rock show. Unlike lighters, however, which don't block the view and are an obvious sign of affection geared almost entirely towards the artist, pulling a phone out is a selfish act.
Seth Troxler pointed out this hypocrisy in his Between The Beats, saying, “People will come take a picture because it’s cool to have a picture with you, not ‘cause they want a photo with you for their memories. They want a photo with you to put on Instagram.”
His point is that the act of taking a video or photo of a musician isn’t really star praise, nor is really even an act of preservation. Most of the time, it’s bragging rights. Our friends at Wunderground have picked up on how self obsessed we’ve become on our nights out with their clever article “Vanity Replaces Ecstasy As Most Popular Thing In Clubland”. Joking aside, it doesn't seem that far off.
Of course, I’m not advocating for completely phone free clubs. We all need to send a text now and again, especially in the crowded super clubs of Ibiza. I lose my friends like everyone else.
What I am saying is that it’s time to do our best to keep phones exactly where they belong—in our pockets. In the end, you, your friends, the DJs and everyone around you will be much happier for it.