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Sunday, February 15, 2015



If you have been to a movie or concert…or almost any other public gathering lately, you will know exactly what I am talking about, possibly even before I say it.  

For Valentine’s Day, my wife and I decided to attend a worship concert by Michael W. Smith, a man whose music we have enjoyed together in several concerts over the years.  We went to see Michael W. Smith, but in addition to him, we actually saw something we often see at the local theater:  a handful of people with cell phones and electronic notebooks or tablets lit up between us and the stage.  Not really all that odd at a concert, but let me explain.

I fully understand that at concerts, people regularly have their cell phones lit up as they take pictures or wave them in rhythm to the music while standing and enjoying the presentation.  However, unlike other concerts I have gone to, this one contained a large number of older people (read:  people Richard’s age and up), who sat through most of the presentation.  (That felt really strange to me, because I tend to be a stander myself!)  It might also help if you realize that the venue was a single floor, without the usual slope toward the stage…just a big long flat space…which means whatever was immediately in front of you determined what you could see.  I was struck by behaviors I saw, and it made me start thinking.

My first thought was that it would be nice if, at the beginning of an event, somebody would ask everybody to turn around, and if you see happy people behind you, then realize they came to see the same presentation you did, and for them to continue to be happy means they get to do that, rather than watch you shoot pictures every three seconds or record every moment, as well as check your facebook page and text messages.  

If, on the other hand, you have chosen a seat where the only thing behind you is a wall, then record away, because you have been smart enough to sit toward the back so you won’t distract people. 

Lest you think I am picking only on technology, the same principle could be applied to particularly one individual who felt moved to stand and worship during the music…which can certainly be okay…but who did so continually throughout the concert while people were sitting right behind him merely got to see a lovely view of his back!  

What struck me most was that these individuals were so completely oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of people were sitting down all around them…and behind them.  Now, lest you think I am picking on the kids, realize that the bulk of the people participating in these activities were individuals well over 30!  In my book, that means old enough to know better.

For people like me, who have some astigmatism, the continuous lights between myself and the stage make it really difficult to be able to see well.  But even those without impairment seemed less than pleased at the distractions.  I might also mention that the disabled person in the wheelchair next to me was delighted that with so many folks seated, he was able to see easily most of the time (fortunately he was not behind the perpetual stander mentioned above). 

It seems to me that some semblance of moderation would be nice in these situations.  A few pictures here and there, instead of a phone choosing a camera where you can use the viewfinder instead of the screen, or even moving to an area near the back where you would be less distracting…that’s why they include a zoom feature!  And I also have no problem with any of these behaviors in a setting where that is the norm of most of the people participating, which is not the case in a movie theater nor was it at particular concert.
One interesting thing I noticed was if somebody asked an individual to put their phone up at least for a while, the individual’s countenance and behavior made plain they thought the person asking was terribly, terribly rude and insensitive.  Really?  The same is true of the cell recordings, most people were watching and listening to the presentation, not recording it to watch it later…they came to actually watch it right then, and the perpetual recorders made it more difficult to do.

Well, the main observation I had was that the people participating in the distracting behaviors, particularly those doing so on a continuous basis, did so apparently oblivious to the fact that others were around them who might be affected by their behavior.  

For instance, can you imagine what it was like to have been the person seated right behind the woman who had the tablet held up brightly lit over her head to shoot her pictures and recordings?  The person behind her saw only a bright screen in front of him not the concert; and not once did I see any of these people turn to apologize or even look to see if they were blocking someone else’s view.  Because it didn't matter to them, as long as they got their picture or their recording, they were content.  I also thought it odd to see individuals so engrossed in recording a concert moment that they were more focused on the recording than on the experience of being there to begin with! 

What does this have to do with divorce?  Marriage is ALL ABOUT being sensitive to the needs of another, and being aware of how your actions impact another person.  Marriage is also all about being in relationship with another person, which is significantly different from being in the presence of another person while relating to somebody else via text or engrossed in some solo activity.  (I often wonder what could possibly be so important in a person’s life that they cannot spend an hour or two with checking their texts and all their social media, or so urgent that they cannot slip out of a dark theater before checking them.)  It seems to me that more and more individuals are becoming oblivious to how their actions impact others.  It also seems that many people are becoming more interested in recording a moment than actually experiencing it.  The beloved word, “selfie” is only a few letters away from the word, “selfish,” and the distinction between the two is becoming less and less clear.  Apparently we are creating more self-centered individuals who don’t even think about how their behaviors impact anybody else.  That just doesn’t bode well for the future of marriages, does it?

But then again, if two individuals are married and are both so oblivious to the needs of others that it doesn't bother them to hold their tablet up in front of others trying to watch a concert, then maybe they would also be oblivious to the times others are not considerate of their needs.  So maybe the divorce rate isn’t going to uptick after all.  Maybe marriage is simply going to be redefined as two individuals living parallel lives, capturing every moment with a selfie and a recording along the way so that they can remember and enjoy it if they ever find the time.  Or, they might be content posting on each other’s facebook page and the especially good files could be uploaded to YouTube for everybody else to enjoy, all the while they never notice that their spouses left the marriage a long time ago!  By the way, if you happen to be the one who was sitting behind the tablet last night, you may want to search the internet, maybe that lady posted it there so that you can see the concert now! 

The saddest comment about the entire thing is that it is a fair assumption that the vast majority of these individuals last night are good Christian church going type of people.  It’s sad because, of all people, Christians have been told to love and serve others, laying down their own lives.  I guess we can do that as long as we aren’t asked to put up our devices, too.  I don’t know, something just seems really off to me in this whole scenario.  But then again, maybe I’m just an old grouch!

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