Live in the Moment, Not in the Screen

A lament to viewing the world through a camera phone


I was out at a pop type concert the other night. Unusual, I know, but my good-time mood turned dark once the singing started. The moment the act came on stage, the bloke in front of me sat bolt upright, got his phone out and started to record the whole thing. And light from a phone is bright. Concentrating on the artist was impossible as I couldn't help but think, ‘Zoom in now. Wide shot there – wider… wider… there. And focus.’

Then, a few days later, I vaguely heard a feature on the radio about a new app that plugs into your emotions and measures your level of excitement and interest. Well, thank goodness for that. If it wasn't for that app, I wouldn't know what I was feeling. Not.

But the two things add up to sad state of affairs. It’s a crime if you don’t experience what is in front of you. Instead of savouring every last word of the singer, the bloke at the concert preferred to have it all on his phone so he can, presumably, watch it later when the atmosphere was, well, gone. Instead of actually immersing yourself in a painting, piece of art installation or poetry reading, is it really better to check your watch to see if you are liking what is in front of you? No.

It’s best to live in the moment. Surely. And the same goes for gardening. I was lucky enough to go to both the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Chatsworth Show. Both were superb but I did note a rather worrying trend. People and their phones were stacked eight deep at various gardens and were filming. Just there, staring at their screens panning this way and that, taking in closeups, even asking others to move so they could get a better angle. Invariably, the phones were held high above heads of innocent show visitors. Then, once the filming had finished, they played the footage back to themselves, checked it, re-filmed or nodded to themselves and moved on. They simply didn't take in the moment for real. Everything was viewed via their phone. Plastic fantastic or the real deal?

And yes, I know that I sound like a fuddy-duddy (because I am one!) but come on - leave the phone at home, in a bag or in your pocket. Look up. Take in what all these artists, and I include the many sensational garden designers in that grouping, have created to be enjoyed face to face. Not through a plastic screen.

And I’ll be honest, when will you ever sit down and look at all that footage? You won’t. The odd bit might end up on YouTube where 10 like-minded people will either thumbs up or thumbs down your efforts. No one is interested in your shaky footage and appalling sound quality. Most importantly, you, the filmmaker, will have missed that precious moment. Or moments. Or in the case of the concert, 90 minutes. (I do admire the lasting power of the phone's battery though).

You really don’t need an app on a watch to tell you what you are feeling. Just look at a garden. Your brain will do the rest.