Put Another Dime in the Jukebox

My First Concert Since the Pandemic

10,389 Concert Crowd Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

The outdoor concert venue slowly filled as the evening light faded. Before too long we were surrounded by a great horde of Millennials all standing, talking in small groups and listening to the vibrant music. Only a small percent were actually focused on the music. They had gathered early up near the stage. This portion of the crowd bounced up and down to each song, waving arms in the air, singing right along. I even saw a brave girl or two crowd surf over the heads of this part of the horde. They were like every crowd I had seen or been a part of during all my years of rock concerts. Of course, as an aging adult, attending classic rock shows, crowd surfing was out of the question. I doubt most of us could even raise our arms over our heads for long. Inflammation and arthritis having taken more of a toll as each year passed.

“Don’t let anybody put you in a box. You are much more than a millennial…much more!”  ― Jerry Gladstone

My generation doesn’t like to stand for long either, much preferring the seating away from the mosh pit. On this evening we were kept safe from the horde in a caged off seating area in the back. I could see everything with very little risk. It was the perfect spot. We did have some Millennial females sneak in to our enclosure. It’s a strange phenomenon I experience at almost every concert. Young women, who I assume have paid a lot of money for their tickets, and then sit near me and talk through the whole show. Talk very loud so that they can be heard by each other over the blaring music. Describing that mole that needs to be removed or the terrible new boss at work. Happened again this night. I don’t get it?? I watched one young lady come over and say hi to a couple on a date sitting in front of me. She then proceeded to stand there and talk (shout) to the girl the rest of the evening. The poor guy was left all alone. I thought they’d been having a great time until the blabber mouth showed up. I still don’t get it??

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In fact, as I surveyed the horde in front and around me, I noticed that the attentive crowd up near the stage was only about one-fourth, if that, of the audience. The rest of the three thousand plus attending was standing around in small groups, chit chatting as if they were at a wedding reception. Most only glanced up at the stage periodically. It took a very familiar song to get everyone to jump around, sing along and become more drawn into the music. Then it was back to the mingling. Maybe the Millennials have been shut away too long and desperately needed the social interaction (more than the music)?

“No matter how different you are, no matter how different you think, no matter how extraordinary or how ordinary you are, when you get on a train, you will go in the same direction as everyone on that train! That’s what happens to you if you mingle with the crowds! The crowd always takes you where it goes!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

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When people used to smoke more, a mellow song would start and the lights would dim and then a magic moment started.  People all around would pull out their lighters and hold up the flames above their heads. This may have evoked much deeper memories of the gathered tribe lifting their torches to the inspiration coming from a leader telling a story or an epic song shared by all. On this night I noticed that when a special moment arrived, the phones went up. People were recording the experience. But this looked to me to be producing the exact opposite effect than the one I remembered. The light was on the little screens cast back on each person holding up a phone. Instead of a social experience of raising up a collective flame, it was a self absorbed moment, directing attention away from the experience we were all having and up to a little private screen – rewarding each person with their own spotlight. How weird we’ve become.

“Normal consumers declare rock to be dead whenever they personally stop listening to it (or at least to new iterations of it), which typically happens about two years after they graduate from college.” ― Chuck Klosterman

It was a great night of music and people watching. My favorites. The weather cooperated, even here in heatstroke Houston. It was a beautiful sunset after the cool off of rain earlier in the afternoon. Even more of a big deal because it has been such a long time since any music has come to town. I was also very encouraged to see Millennials out having a really big social experience. We hear reports about people staying home, working digitally, living a distanced life, dropping out of organizations like church, etc. Attending this big night together told me that people, no matter what demographic they fall under, still like to gather and have fun with great music all night long. It was a good sign for the future, no matter what the TV is telling us.

“Music needs to be felt to be heard.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

Connected, Really?

“Communication is merely an exchange of information, but connection is an exchange of our humanity.” -Sean Stephenson

Should cell phones be banned from American classrooms? | TheHill

I’m not convinced that our technology has done much for our deeper needs for human connection. Maybe it’s even done some damage. Technology has brought us more convenience, broadened our reach, enabled deeper dives into information swimming holes, and created serious addictions to our devices. How has all of this marvelous “wirelessness” made our lives more wonderful and terrible all at once? As I thought more about this during the week, I think college students, despite the perpetual presence of technology in their lives, are not necessarily experiencing useful connectivity.

What if you spent four years at college and never really met anyone?

Since the widespread use of the cell phone (I’m told using that term places me in a very old fashioned category) as I walk into my class, I am always surprised that the silent room is full of people. In the old days (why am I using that phrase so often?), students would be talking, laughing,  sharing information at each class session. Today, every student is silently hunched over a phone or laptop never speaking  a word or looking at anyone else. It’s not a problem related to getting “warmed up” after the first week or two. This doesn’t change for the entire semester. I have to deliberately instigate social interactions. And these still typically do not have lasting results.

“Human connection is based on trust, and it is trust that is continually violated when people do not practice setting aside their narrow self-interests in consideration of the needs and interests of others, such as their coworkers, family, neighbors, and community.” ― Diane Kalen-Sukra

Time to get intentional. I’m going to have to think about deliberate, non-threatening practices that will enable and encourage college students to develop trust in their situation, fellow students and in me. 

Is there another world passing you by?

I’m at the old man stage where I talk out loud to strangers. This is especially prone to happen at school where everyone gets asked, “Did you learn anything today?” These days I can’t always talk to people passing by. Every other person is plugged into their phone while the real world passes by, day by day. I’ve stopped assuming people are talking aloud to me as they pass. It’s more than likely someone is on their hidden phone. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago with a few loud talkers at the grocery store. No one really needed my help finding the beef consommé.

Does staying plugged in while walking or bent over your phone in a crowded room keep people safe from the uncomfortable small talk with strangers?

“I care about strangers when they’re abstractions, but I feel almost nothing when they’re literally in front of me.” ― Chuck Klosterman

As an introvert myself, yes it is much more comfortable to sit in a crowd and look busy/distracted and not in need of anyone’s company. But I’m old enough to realize that’s not very healthy.

Is there really anything better going on in that little phone than the real people’s lives all around us?

Audio audacity: Students use concealed earbuds to avoid authority – U-High Midway

“I’m an introvert.
If your party isn’t better
than the one in my head,
I’m not interested.”
― John Mark Green

Time to get intentional. I can’t invade the personal space of strangers. What I can do is keep smiling. I can continue to extend all the social grace that’s so valuable. It never goes out of fashion or plunges in worth like bitcoin. I can continue to believe that someone real will always win out over everything artificial, in the end. 

What’s the weather like today?

All that time and attention spent plugged in and what always surprises me is how little enlightenment occurs. Very rarely do I run across a student who’s prepared for the rain or cold weather. It snuck up almost out of the blue. How is this possible? You’ve been connected almost every waking hour. Don’t you know about the weather, the Russians, or clogged up I-59?

If being constantly connected to the world around doesn’t help us to live a better life – then what does it matter? What else is going on?

Maybe being online all the time is something that’s out of control. Seems harmless to be on your phone constantly. What does an addiction look like? It’s not really about learning, growing and getting a step ahead.

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“When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t…” ― Luke Davies

As a sociologist I realize that there are powerful market forces that want nothing more than to trap young people in a perpetual surf on the web. Selling consumer products isn’t the only commodity being peddled. Ideas, calls to action and group affiliation are a few of the categories enticing us to roam endlessly through the web. Actually, there is no age boundary to who can become ensnared in this digital trap. Right?

I just feel at times as if I’m in a zombie film when I walk across campus and there’s so few to return a greeting, much less eye contact.

Back view of Handsome Teen Boy in gray suit stretching his right hand up for greeting. Portrait of caucasian Teenager waving hand isolated on white background. Stock Photo | Adobe Stock

If I’m going to be more intentional about this, maybe I need a big name tag or sign that just reads, “Hello!” or “Happy Thursday!” Something I could wave and people as they march past while all plugged in. What do you think? I’m already sort of a character at school as it is…

“Beware the man of a single book.” ― St. Thomas Aquinas