Being in the Inauguration moment

If you were at a big event and spent the whole length of it trying to get a picture with your phone, did you actually experience the event?

Carolyn Grant

I spent some time on Monday evening watching Inauguration festivities on CNN. When did Monday night become such a bad evening for TV by the way?

It was quite a spectacle. CNN had assembled various panels of experts in inaugural festivities to describe the action in painstaking detail.

One of them was highly annoyed that Michelle Obama had opted to go with the same designer as she had for her husband’s first inauguration, that being Jason Wu.

“What about the underdogs?” he howled, in magnificent outrage as Michelle took the stage in her brilliant red dress. He had wanted the First Lady to go with an unknown, and indulged in quite the fit of pique when she didn’t.

Meanwhile Piers Morgan walked across the border into Creepytown by sharing with us that Michelle’s choice in shoes — Jimmy Choo — was the right one. That wasn’t creepy. But when Piers shared with us that he loved women’s shoes and in fact bought them just because, well, he loved women’s shoes, that gave me pause. TMI, Piers. TMI.

And the First Lady’s bangs were much discussed. I mean much discussed. They were examined from all angles, parsed and for the most part, approved. Even the guy who was outraged about the designer choice liked the hair.

In any event, as I watched all those people lucky enough to get tickets to the Commander-In-Chief’s ball and the Inaugural Ball I was struck by how unified they all were — in trying to get a picture with their phones.

When the President and First Lady hit the stage at the first ball, an eerie glow hit the room — the glow of thousands of cell phones focusing on the first couple. It was a strange sight. A sea of barely distinguishable bodies, arms upthrust, trying to capture the moment on their Iphone 5s and Galaxy Nexus (what’s the plural of Nexus? Nexi?) Presumably they would then immediately post the pictures on Facebook so all their friends would know that they were there, watching the President dance with the First Lady.

Except they weren’t watching the President dance with the First Lady. They were trying to frame them in the tiny cell phone screen. They were experiencing the historic moment through their phones. Did any of them actually take the time to watch with the naked eye? It sure didn’t look like it.

So I ask you, if you were at a big event and spent the whole length of it trying to get a picture with your phone, did you actually experience the event?

It’s kind of like the old question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there …  you know the rest.

Can you absorb the sights, the sounds, the feelings of a big event while trying desperately to get a picture of it?

I don’t think you can. Mind you, if you were standing in that huge crowd at the ball, you ‘d have had a hard time experiencing anything in any event, because everyone else was trying to get a picture. You’d have been blinded by the thousands of small screens. We seem to have reached the point that no one believes an event occurred unless someone took a cellphone picture and posted it online.

Apparently there is a movement afoot to remind people that you can in fact experience things without your Iphone. Those involved in the movement urge you to leave your phone at home when attending a concert or a speech or any other big event, to just experience it in real time.

I understand they are calling it Be In the Moment. I can’t confirm that however, because when I consulted the Oracle, all that came up was that there is a cellphone called the Samsung Moment. It comes with not only a camera, but a video camera.

Carolyn Grant is Editor of the

Kimberley Daily Bulletin