Has Facebook Killed the Mosh Pit?

Ah, the mosh pit.

It is the very essence of what it means to be a young person in the post-modern age.

It’s where we go to escape the digital confines of the internet and reconnect with real people in a somewhat primal fashion.

Entering that place – the rough, sweaty, exhausting pool of bodies at the foot of a rock concert stage – reminds us that, while we each are individuals, we are also linked together in a group called humanity.

We are not isolated.

The mosh unites us.

At least, it used to.

In recent years a toxic combination of social media sites like Facebook and mobile phones have corroded the mosh.

Once upon a time, the mosh pit was the place to drop your defences and amass as a human mass.

It was the place to taste others’ sweat and possibly taste your own blood. There you would haul your fallen, unknown compatriots up off the floor and then knock them down again in a rough story that allowed you to be antagonist and protagonist all at once.

Everyone would leave at the end, wet and bruised, ears ringing, shoes lost, shirts torn. But we all felt good as we waved farewell to the new friends that we would probably never see again. There was a sense of satisfaction, like we’d reasserted our position of physical relevance in the universe.

The mosh was proof that we’re not all turning into robots.

It’s not like that anymore.

I was recently at an Arctic Monkeys show, under the stars in Stanley Park’s glorious Malkin Bowl amphitheatre.

The crowd was large, but as the band took the stage, it quickly became apparent that most attendees were more interested in the fact than the act of being there.

To my surprise, people had hauled along their tools of isolation and were rapidly constructing invisible Facebook Walltents on the dance floor.

As the music began the entire crowd seemed to be on their mobile phones updating their Facebook statuses or posting some inane witticism to Twitter.

The mosh became mush, devolved into a static crowd of trendy looking Sims.

Some hands held mobile phones aloft where they gently swayed like beacons in a motionless sea.

At first, this seemed to be a modern tribute to the ancient pothead ritual of raising a lighter during a ballad.

In fact, they were working hard to capture a video clip or photo to serve as inscrutable online evidence of their attendance.

Many that didn’t hold their devices heavenward bowed their heads. The cold blue glow of a cell phone screen lit up their faces as they solemnly disengaged with reality to get all interactive with someone else somewhere else in the social media space.

Despite the tight-packed conditions in front of the stage, physical contact was clearly discouraged. As I danced, disdainful glances were cast against me. (Too bad for the folks I bumped into that there’s no “block user” command in the real world.)

At one point, I looked back at the crowd and found an unending sea of dead eyes.

Then it struck me: nobody is here. Certainly, dotted through the audience were pockets of motion where others like me dared to respond physically to the Arctic Monkeys.

But otherwise the scene was one from the Twilight Zone. If I’d run back through the crowd and found every figure to be a hologram, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

This was an army of automatons anxiously awaiting the last bar of music to fade so that they could scurry back to the anti-social sanctity of their social media worlds.

And too soon (for me, anyway) it was all over. The band literally fled the stage and the silence of the forest poured back like a dark, thick syrup into the bowl of the amphitheatre.

Then as the crowd quickly dispersed, a new sound rose.

It was like the scattered, frenetic sound of an insect swarm’s feet fleeing from a predator.

In fact, it was thousands of fingers tapping on mobile phone keyboards, tweeting, texting, instant messaging, and updating online statuses.

Heads were down and no one was talking as figures stumbled and bumped into each other on their way to the gate.

And that was how the crowd of ghosts floated away into the darkness of the trees.

It was then I recalled the lyrics from a song, “Reality TV,” by the Infadels:

“You talk to the numbers/And text phone the others/Why go out when you can just stay at home?”

If video killed the radio star then Facebook has clearly killed the mosh pit.

Such a pity.

First published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 2, 2009.

4 thoughts on “Has Facebook Killed the Mosh Pit?

  1. Good Article. I too noticed this as I sat up on the hill way at the back. It was really distracting to see so many phones and cameras held up taping the show. I took away from the great performance on stage.

    I can’t believe but am not surprised that people were facebooking in the mosh or even just in the crowd. It really is a shame because the people aren’t enjoying the show for the music, they’re not taking in the talent like we used to.

    It really is a shame and sad that these devices are allowed. Maybe one day technology will be such that an electronic field can be put up that disables all of these devices, then we can get back to dancing and enjoying the music.

  2. Thanks Andrew, I have always wondered how people have the time to twitter and text and all that stuff and now I realize that they are not really in life they are sending it to someone else to impress? or look cool? I don’t know, but I think it grew from that guy on holiday in the plaid bermuda shorts with the video camera constantly taking videos, he’s not really there but in the future when he will show them to his friends. This use of technology has been happening for years but now it has become more cool and the devices are so much smaller.

  3. I got here from your comment on Contactizer at Maczot. Good blog post, and I agree with you. I work at a social media agency, where my colleagues are total fans of most of the trendy social media stuff, and believe they’d be there at that concert, twittering, facebooking, tumblring, blogging, etc.

    I feed social media should help us all connect in real life instead. I think it is great when Facebook allows me to connect and meet with people in real life, but sad when people just feel they’ve been acting socially with me, just by poking me on Facebook, when I’d rather go for a walk with them or drink a cup of coffee…

    It sure does ruin mindfulness to always be “online”…

  4. I think this is a great example of something we see everywhere now.

    I would posit that the reason people go out to the bar, see shows, or leave their house even, is for bragging privileges in some form of social media.

    Facebook, and other forms of social media, is where we reinvent or slightly modify ourselves. Going out almost becomes a status thing: I was there and you weren’t, here’s my proof.

    I wonder how many people at that concert were actually Arctic Monkeys fans, and how many were just there to ‘keep up with the Facebook Joneses’

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