Somewhere over the South China Sea. Perspectives on music and marketing in Asia.
'78 % of millennials choose to spend money on a desirable experience rather than something material, the trend extends beyond just young people, to every age bracket and socioeconomic class.' (World Economic Forum). The trend toward experiences in the so-called fourth industrial revolution is excellent for people who work in live experiences, but it's also vital to understand how things like technology play their part. Will we see the selfie craze slow, what will replace it if anything? Will the society of selfie-takers continue with their quest for self-betterment to the extent of putting their lives at risk? Will generations continue to beautify themselves through apps and drag society further and further away from a semblance of reality? These are questions of sociology and psychology. 'The taking of selfies is a self-oriented action that allows users to establish their individuality and self-importance.' (Mark D. Griffiths PhD).
The massive appetite certain parts of society have for validating themselves and portraying an image of what they'd like to be is prevalent in all experiences these days. The 'selfie' is now often a reason' fans' invest in experiences. Traveling to parts of the world to present themselves as worldly through their feeds, pulling celebrities into a shot to be seen with them and attending music gigs to be a 'fan' or 'party animal.' The idea is to elevate ourselves within some contrived social context. The selfie has replaced the souvenir, autograph and memory. Whether its an image, short video or supped-up meme the obsession we have with exhibiting ourselves has taken over, and often at the cost of genuinely enjoying an experience.
Alex Garland (the guy who wrote The Beach) once said keeping a diary or taking photos while on holiday is a mistake. The reason being you end up only remembering what you bothered to write down, or the images you captured. Rather than the real memories which are altogether more visceral and meaningful. Why look through a lens when we the best way to enjoy and experience is to concentrate on enjoying it. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking these moments won't exist if they're not captured on our phone; this fear has been constructed by social media platforms and doesn't exist. We are smart mammals and need to believe in our minds to consistently deliver memories and be confident in ourselves that we don't need to bolster our profiles online at the detriment of the experience or memory.
When stood at the back of a crowd looking at the stage we're often faced with a sea of bright screens between ourselves and the performer. Some of these devices are taking selfies and some to film the performance. When we put on shows I am always tempted to put up signs saying 'no phones please'. Some events have done this to encourage people to concentrate on the experience and get lost - in a good way. The apparent conundrum here is that the images people take at events these days are the often one of the most powerful marketing tools you have. For the artist, the show maker and their partners it's currently an important part of the ecosystem.
It baffles me to learn of the latest Instagram location fads. People lining up to have photos taken with a 'backdrop' that thousands of other people have taken photos with. It's big all over the world; people want that iconic picture; however, crap it is, and yet, many millions of people have done precisely the same thing. I'm still at a loss as to how any individualism comes into this? What is the point? Developing a great backdrop or scene can be pretty cool. Burning Man is still one of the most spectacular places anywhere to take pictures. Its moonlike appearance is the perfect natural studio for the beautiful people dressed to the nines in apocalyptic garb. The same could be said of Coachella, albeit on an entirely different level. Commercial events depend on pictures and selfies to deliver for their partners. Events and festivals are often developing stronger engagement through punters and their communities, rather than official rights channels. How can we consider getting rid of selfies when they're involved in the fundamental economics of the experience? Perhaps festival goers will gradually start realizing that value is rooted in the moment and memory rather than what they put online. Filing their mind with deep-seated memories rather than filling the cloud with content few people will value in the future. There is evidence of a change away from selfie obsession, I've also started to notice many people closing their social media accounts recently, deciding there's more value in abstaining than being part of the machine.
So while knocking selfie-taking and those that spend excessive time producing them I must go on to put my hand up and say I've been there, hell I still sometimes snap a couple of pics on a night out. I guess I'm a hypocrite, but I'm becoming less and less tolerant of it as the tide shifts. People are wising up to the realities of selfies, slowly but surely generations that grew up with selfies are taking a dimmer view of what they represent, pushing them down the hierarchy of importance as they enjoy an experience.
The realities of this poser culture need to be addressed. How people experience should be down to them, so to should the memory of those experiences. If someone is on a dance floor having a good time it's likely they won't want a camera in their face, punters want to enjoy their experience without someone else trying to take ownership of it. We should start censoring ourselves more, taking responsibility, because the companies making the phones and developing platforms for us to share content will never stop. Holster that phone people.