There’s a fine line between embracing the future of technology and being choked by it. While I understand the importance of technology and its advancement, I at times feel it encroaches too far into daily life. Technology, as it relates to interpersonal communication, has become increasingly pervasive in just about every imaginable situation. I know I may sound slightly skeptical and old-fashioned, like Jake Ten Pas has on his blog a time or two, but there are certain sacred facets of life that I don’t want interrupted with glowing screens and irritating vibrations.
This all came to mind for me when, the other day, I heard a story on NPR detailing a new mobile phone policy at a Bellevue, Wash., theater. To clarify, we’re talking about a live-performance theater, not the movie variety. The distinction makes a difference in this instance. This particular theater has decided to not only allow smartphone use, but to flat out encourage it with the installation of a signal-enhancing antenna. For some reason, which I’m just now putting words to, this report rubbed me the wrong way. The theater’s reasoning for the new policy was to encourage a younger audience to attend performances. I guess the hope is that the ability to tweet or text during a play would be attractive enough to this group to draw it in. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I do know that I would be less than excited to be seated next to a tweeter during a play.
It seems like a distracting practice not only for audience members, but more detrimentally, for actors. I can imagine a particularly emotional scene between two actors, when one or the other is thrown off because a front row audience member lights up her or his phone screen to tweet. I don’t like the idea of allowing new technology to disrupt age-old art forms. When have we gone too far? At what point do we draw the line?
To be fair, and to play devil’s advocate to my own point of view, tweeting and other forms of social networking could theoretically build buzz for whatever show/act they’re regarding. However, I think it might be better for all involved if said messages are released on the web after the fact. Why ruin the experience of a play and jeopardize being present in the moment?
In terms of public relations and marketing, being familiar with the latest, tech-driven communication tools is the name of the game. I see true business value in the use of smartphones and the social networks/apps that can be accessed through them to interact with companies and brands. At the same time, I think a level of general respect must be maintained. We should strive to hang onto the shreds of one-on-one, non-tech-imbued human communication we have left. While smartphone use during a play may seem inconsequential now, I think it speaks to a larger shift in what is viewed as acceptable social behavior.