Is social media ruining the live experience?

Let’s paint a scene (no pun intended). There’s a new gallery/show/exhibition opening in town and you want to go check it out, get some culture in your life. The day comes and you arrive at the place. As soon as the first display or piece comes into view you feel your fingers twitch. Before you’ve even taken in your surroundings you find yourself reaching for your camera to snap a picture. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, this is quite common, as you know if you’ve attended a gallery lately.


We recently went along to the incredible Isle of Dogs exhibition to see some of the intricate and beautiful sets used for the new Wes Anderson film. After 20 minutes in the space we’d taken a picture of nearly every setup, spending more time trying to get the perfect shot rather than actually appreciating what was right in front of us.


This got us thinking… has the addictive nature of social media ruined our ability to just stop and appreciate the world around us as it unfolds? Everything is so accessible at the swipe of a finger and we consume so much data that if our eyes could get fat they’d be heading for clinically obese . This opens up a wider question; Are our experiences dictated by whether or not it’s social media worthy? Is it still enriching and acceptable if you don’t share everything on Instagram or Twitter?


If you’ve attended a live show or concert in the past decade you will be all too familiar with the ocean of arms raised high with bright, distracting phone screens in the way of yours and everyone else’s view. Whether it’s live music, a comedy performance or something else, it’s guaranteed to happen. Some people feel so strongly against the use of phones that the introduction to banning cameras all together is happening, notably by Jack White and Chris Rock. When asked about his no phone policy, Jack White said: “We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON.”  At White gigs photo or video-capturing gizmos are secured in a Yondr pouch which are unlocked at the end of the show.” He tackled the issue of not being able to take your own videos or pictures by hiring professional photographers and videographers for and releasing the content for free for people to use for their social channels later. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you re-watched those grainy, awful sounding videos you took at that gig 3 years ago?


Has this now become the main reason for attending a show or visiting a gallery, not to receive a dose of culture or to be inspired anymore? It’s more to brag or show the world and your followers that “I AM CULTURED, I AM INSPIRED, AND I HAVE GOOD TASTE”.


On the flip side a lot of people would disagree. Social media is a powerful communication tool and without it we would be relying on word-of-mouth and reading magazines or newspapers to find out where the latest and greatest is. It acts as a digital scrapbook, bursting with memories and past thoughts that are accessible instantly.


Design blog Artmonious has an interesting article where they state that some galleries are embracing the age of digital. “Social media has definitely made the arts community larger,” said painter Riad Miah. “Some galleries are finding their artists based on how many people are following a particular person. Certainly, galleries and artists are thinking more along the lines of how their work is going to be seen on social media There have been situations where the installation took a day and the gallery spending three days on just the lighting it to make sure it looked good for Instagram.”


Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have come to be regarded as essential spaces for emerging artists to share their work and get it in front of more people. There are countless questions about how some of these services may be shaping the way art is produced and shown, perhaps even motivating artists and art institutions to feature work that looks attractive on digital platforms, even if it feels flimsy in real life.


However you see it, social media has become woven into the very fabric of our daily lives and whether you’re for or against this digital takeover, it’s here and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.