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27th Jun 2019

Recording concerts on Instagram suggests that FOMO has evolved into FOSETWMO

Carl Kinsella


T’is the season.

I try, as much as I can, to avoid being very “old man yells at cloud” about things.

But in this case, I wonder if there might be a societal benefit to reconsidering our approach to Instagram Stories. Specifically, when it comes to concerts.

Filming concerts on Instagram Stories seems to come from an urge that goes beyond FOMO. It’s more like a meta-anxiety. It’s not the fear that we’re missing out, it’s the fear that someone else thinks we’re missing out.

Shortly after its inception, the go-to joke about Instagram was that people posted pictures of their meals on there.

That was supposed to be a bad thing – a prime example of millennial vanity and self-obsession, the idea that every mundane moment was worth documenting.

Well, why not?

We can document whatever we so choose. Food, like almost nothing else, is what brings us joy. It tastes good, it looks good, so why the hell not?

It’s not as if taking a photo of your food somehow releases spores into the air that make it taste worse. Go for it.

After all, I don’t really ascribe to the, “What if phones, but too much?” Black Mirror thinking of the day.

In almost all cases, smartphones enhance daily life. Having cameras and recorders on our person at all times makes us safer. Having Google at our fingertips makes us smarter – what were parties like in 1989?

Someone could just be like, “Is Nelson Mandela dead?” and you couldn’t Google it so you’d have to be like “I don’t know” and just try to keep having fun?

Having a comprehensive data book of everyone we know makes us more connected.

But this principle demonstrably does not apply to concerts.

In the last few weeks, Ireland has played host to many great gigs.

On just one night, Metallica rocked Slane while legendary ’80s sad-boys The Cure played Malahide. We’ve had Forbidden Fruit and Body & Soul, with plenty more to come.

Festival season is well and truly underway, as the fellow says.

With it comes the season of long dotted lines on top of Instagram Stories, and carpal tunnel injuries as innocent bystanders bash the right side of the smartphone screen to skip through a mish-mash of poorly recorded concert footage.

I’m not here to tell you what you can and can’t do, though.

I’m not even here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do (at least not this time.)

I just want to talk. I just want to get to the bottom of this.

Clip via TeamCoco

Let’s take a recent example. Say, oh, Bon Jovi. Without making this personal, I’m happy to admit that I have no interest in seeing Bon Jovi even at the best of times. Even with the utmost clarity. In 4k, with Dolby Surround Sound. Or even with my own eyes and ears. No disrespect to him, but that’s how I feel.

So it’s almost impossible to express my ambivalence towards seeing shaky footage of 15 seconds of the mid-section of ‘Dead or Alive’, segueing very seamlessly into the crescendo of ‘It’s My Life’, some footage of people dancing, three seconds of the floor, and then the opening notes of ‘Living On A Prayer.’

So on the user experience end of things, it’s bad. That pretty much goes without saying.

But what of the recorder on the other end of this interaction?

The sheer prevalence of Insta-Storie’d concerts would suggest that somebody is getting something out of this – even though there can be no doubt that the finickiness of filming while trying to enjoy a concert surely reduces the fun.

But still, it’s important to record the fun, so you have the memory.

It is also important to broadcast the fun, otherwise nobody knows that the fun happened – and if you’re not having fun, then you are failing at what is perhaps the most fundamental element of being alive.

So if you’re at the concert, and the concert was fun, then it can be reasonably be assumed that you are having fun, and therefore you are succeeding. You might even be enviable, which is a step up from successful.

Does that mean you are you maximising your utility of the event?

You’ve paid to be there, and gigs ain’t cheap. Is the social acumen that comes with the world knowing you were at the concert as important, or indeed more important, than the concert itself? Maybe it is!

All of these things go beyond our biological needs.

Who’s to say how much benefit one person derives from hearing their favourite songs played live, and whether that compares to the benefit derived from everyone knowing that you’re out there in the world and leading a life worth living? We don’t have metrics that measure these things.

It comes back to that age-old thought experiment.

Would you rather everybody thought you climbed Mount Everest (but you didn’t), or climb Mount Everest but nobody will ever know?

Baby, we’re living it!

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge