Taylor Swift Reputation Tour
On Aug. 3 and 4, 2018, Taylor Swift came to Toronto and performed her “Reputation Stadium Tour” at the Rogers Centre, and Camila Cabello and Charli XCX opened for her. (Angela McLean/Ryersonian)

Living in the GTA, we’re lucky with the number of bands and artists that come here on tour. I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, to the point where I’ve lost track of them all. If there’s one difference I noticed between my first concert — Hilary Duff in 2005 — to now, is the number of cell phones in the audience.

During concerts, I’ve spent plenty of time trying to take the best pictures and videos of the artist. Every time a song came on, I had to take a video to remember the moment forever. In my mind, if I didn’t record it then I would end up regretting not being able to reminisce on that night in the future.

But despite all the onstage moments I’ve captured, I almost never look back at them. And with the excitement of everything happening around me, almost every candid ended up being a low quality image I’d immediately delete. Dozens of blurry photos and shaky videos were taking up precious storage space on my camera roll after each show.

One night, at Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour, something changed for me. She started singing her iconic hit “Love Story” and the Rogers Centre crowd went wild. At the same time the music began playing, hundreds of phones went in the air to document it—including mine.

I suddenly felt weird being part of the crowd, watching the show through my cell phone. Every other day of my life, I could only see Taylor Swift on my phone through social media. Yet there she was in real life, and I was still there watching her through a screen.

After that, I realized I should start living more in the moment at events like this. Concerts cost money, some upwards of hundreds of dollars. Instead of spending my time documenting it, I wanted to be more present and remember it organically instead of digitally.

This realization also made me think about my phone usage on an average day. I looked at the stats on my phone which tell me how long I spend on each app. Just last week, data shows I spent at least 18 hours scrolling through Twitter and Instagram.

Clearly, I spend enough time on my phone. A concert doesn’t need to be another place for me to be doing that. But living in the craziness of a digital world, photos have become synonymous with going out at all. Everyone does it, so I don’t blame people for spending more time on phones than we probably should.

Lennon Stella Live
On March 20, 2019, Lennon Stella performed her “Love, Me” Tour at the Danforth Music Hall. The crowd was eager to film every moment of the concert. (Angela McLean/Ryersonian)

Part of me thinks we live in a “pics or it didn’t happen” culture, something that puts an unspoken pressure on people. The number of times I’ve seen my friends scramble to post something on their Instagram story because they felt they had to, is a concept a lot of people might relate to. Publishing proof of our attendance at the coolest events not only takes us out of the moment, but gives us a job at an event that is meant to be fun. For me, it was as if I was taking pictures at concerts just to prove I was there.

I don’t blame people for wanting to document a fun night out, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking pictures and videos during a show. In fact, there’s probably a lot of people who enjoy doing it. But I never did. The reason I would is because I thought it was a once in a lifetime moment I’d want to look back on someday.

Once I realized the amount of time I spent documenting concerts, I made an effort to stop. From that experience, I’ve started enjoying shows a lot more without putting the pressure on myself to get the perfect pic. I still do it on occasion if it’s a favourite song or a perfect lighting moment but the result is the same, and the candids end up sitting on my phone untouched forever. At least now, it’s nowhere near as excessive like it once was.

If there ever is a time I regret not taking at least one decent photo at a show, I’ve learned not to worry. All I need to do is go on social media where there are hundreds of photos from the event. They’re probably much better quality than anything I would have taken, anyway.

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