Put the Phone Down

by Chris on April 28, 2012

Sometimes you have to put the iPhone away: A few thoughts on my technology addiction.


With Jazzfest on the immediate horizon, the Thursday night Kermit Ruffins show at Vaughan’s, a shack-style bar in New Orleans’ arty Bywater neighborhood, drew a larger-than-usual crowd. Don and I staked out a place toward the front, near the New Orleans police barricades that keep the enthusiastic fans from crushing Ruffins, a peace-and-dope-loving, trumpet-playing institution now made famous on the HBO TV show Treme.

When Ruffins started to blow, the bar lit up. Dozens of tiny strobe lights danced across the musician’s face as everyone and their brother captured the moment on their smartphone cameras. Facebook statuses were updated, text messages were sent. A couple who had been dancing together to jukebox tunes pulled apart, each one lost in their electronic world.

Now I love my iPhone as much as anyone. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning, and the last thing I check before going to bed. But the extra lighting and constant recording turned what should have been a joyous passage to Jazzfest into just another social media sideshow.

This isn’t the first time recently that I’ve examined my relationship with technology. As a travel writer, I love to share where I’ve been and where I’m going, with friends and readers. This week in New Orleans is no exception. My Facebook page and Twitter feed are full of delectable food photos, random observations. It’s become my default mode on the road. But is that really a good thing?

I spent most of the 1990s here in New Orleans, working as a reporter at the Times-Picayune. It’s where I learned to slow down, to look at sources as people with a story, instead of a quote to be inserted. The town runs on relationships, not Facebook friends. A decade later, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do it.

But I can try, at least for an hour or two. At Vaughan’s, I tucked my phone away, shut my eyes and bathed in the sound of the music. I could feel my husband behind me, protecting me from the swaying crowd, now moving with a force fueled by the beat. Sweat formed on my forehead. I pressed my empty drink cup against my chest, allowing the half-melted ice cubes to cool me down. I allowed myself to feel, instead of document.

This is what seeing a band used to be like, what a date used to be like. What life used to be like. And it’s something that no Instagram image can capture.


| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Bly April 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

Terrific post, Chris! I felt the same way at a concert a few months ago. Despite a “no cameras” policy, everyone was pulling out a smartphone. (I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the rude picture-takers.) And, of course, all that documenting meant losing what we’d come for in the first place…:-(


Chris May 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Thanks, Laura. That means a lot, coming from you.


Kath April 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Same experience…in New Orleans, actually. We went to Preservation Hall, which, granted is a tourist mecca… that out of the way, despite repeated pleas from the band to not video the performance, the band leader actually had to stop midway in a song because someone just couldn’t help themselves. Sad. And I am guilty of recording/journaling as much as anyone, but even I know when to quit.


Laura @Travelocafe April 29, 2012 at 4:17 am

My husband reminds me about this exact feeling every time we are in a new location, to stop being a travel blogger for a few moments and just relax and feel the pulse of the place, enjoy the moment together, enjoy life… 🙂 Great post, reminding us how to really enjoy our travel destinations.


Jeremy Branham April 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

Glad to know I am not alone here. I don’t even have a smart phone. I tend to shun technology when I travel (I do take my laptop). When I am out and about, I have absolutely no access to the internet – facebook, social media, etc. I am “stuck” walking around, talking to people, seeing places, and taking photos (with my camera).

A few times, I’ve considered getting a smart phone. However, every time I’ve talked myself out of it because I just don’t want to be “connection.” I guess I want my connections on the road to be with the people I am with. I hope I always stay that way.


Alexa Meisler April 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Technology can never outshine the real thing. I know exactly how you feel. The festival still sounds amazing though. I’m glad you still had fun!


vacation rental website design April 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Great post! I share your experience so many times. When I’m on vacation I would like to share my experiences in pictures but however sometimes having too much technology just overwhelms you. Sometimes it’s nice to put the phone down and enjoy your vacation and get away from everything. Isn’t that the whole point of a vacation?


Jenna May 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Such a good reminder. I have to remind myself sometimes to put the camera down and just soak it all in.


Chris May 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Thanks, Jenna. Even since I’ve written this, I have trouble putting it down. It’s a continual battle.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: