Live first. Post later.

siren texting

By Amber Osborne, {grow} Contributing Columnist

This past weekend I was at a concert in Vegas for my birthday. It was a tour opener for the bands Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, each iconic bands in their own rock genres. I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails a few times in the past; it’s always an unforgettable energetic show where the whole crowd becomes a connected entity to the pulsing, loud music and the visual experience on the stage.

This time something was drastically different — the crowd seemed disconnected. Countless people were sitting down with their heads down and faces illuminated by the glow of their cellphones.

Soundgarden’s lead singer Chris Cornell pleaded during the concert for people to “get out of their seats and off their phones.”

Our era of digital disrespect

He was making the point that even if the band isn’t the band or type of music you want to see, have some respect for the performers and the fans around you. This made me extremely sad and even a bit angry to see this happen during this concert, I’ve personally been waiting more than 10 years to see Soundgarden live and to see such a legendary band like this “digitally disrespected” had me thinking … have we become so connected to our online lives that we forget to live?

I’m connected. I understand the feeling. You get this itch to go to your phone like a security blanket for a child. It’s a comfortable feeling knowing the connection to the whole world is in your pocket. The feeling that you must capture and share every experience online.

I admit, I took a few photos at the concert and sent some tweets out about the concert, but I mostly waited till the intermission or after the show to send anything out. I knew better than to spend the entire time sitting down with my phone while these bands are playing their hearts out.

It gets down to this. It’s not about the technology. It’s about respect.

The irony of disconnected connection

This is the reason I cringe every time I see a couple out at dinner and both of them spend the entire time on their phones. Don’t even get me started on how many digital zombies almost ran into me (and our cars) on the streets of San Francisco and Vegas in the past week while they’ve got their face in their phones and headphones on. It seems we are more than ever connected to the world with smartphones but at the same time the disconnection to the real world around us has never felt greater.

While I was writing this article someone asked me, “I haven’t seen you tweet anything in two days or much from Vegas? Did everything go okay?” My response was, “Yep, I threw my phone off the balcony.”

Metaphorically of course.

I was just busy traveling and enjoying my vacation but I realized something on this trip — What we post, and the life we live online is not ours; it’s for others. I was having an amazing time living my life offline, but to the online world; I was virtually dead for two days.

Don’t type your life away for the benefit of others … Live first. Post later.

Are you with me?

Amber Osborneamber osbourne a.k.a @MissDestructo is the CMO at Meshfire, a social media management platform out of Seattle, WA. She’s worked previously in online marketing with clients ranging from bands to brands. Check out her adventures at

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Mike Licht.

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  • Amit Sharma

    Unlike in the past, we obviously now have a device that accompanies us everywhere… while we commute or have lunch somewhere. We are also losing much time that could have gone into observing the surroundings, people, events… losing the ability to observe is a vital loss to the quality of life. Quite agree with you that we shouldn’t live online for the sake of others.

  • Wow. I couldn’t agree more with you Amber. Thanks for sharing.

    You said it all here;

    “It seems we are more than ever connected to the world with smartphones but at the same time the disconnection to the real world around us has never felt greater”

    Take CARE,


  • Jason Jue

    Totally agree with you. It will probably get worse when we have wearables. There’s got to be a way that technology can solve this problem!

  • MCJansen


  • Jen Dennis

    Love the way you’ve expressed that living in status updates isn’t fully living.

    I also think that phones distill experiences into snackable, agreeable elements (i.e., not an unfiltered musical experience, but a series of photos) and that some people now feel overwhelmed in big, rich, real moments. Maybe it’s a skill that atrophies?

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    Sometimes it makes me crazy to be so connected. But I guess the good news, when I’m “living” I forget to take pictures and tweet. LOL (The hubs and I might be one of those couples out and about, looking at our phones, but we talk at home. He’ll be checking his Flickr page and I’ll be playing Angry Birds. LOL)

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you Jen! I’ve always wondered that myself, it seems that in some social situations people seem more uncomfortable now then in the past. I think it might be the lack in these situations of validation and personal response that we usually we get through our social networks in those “snackable, agreeable elements”… our networks online create a safe zone to share experiences, where in big, rich real moments, things are a little bit less controllable and people are unknown. #insertmatrixmemehere

  • Amber Osborne

    Thanks Jason! I think maybe wearables might help us solve this problem. A bracelet that gives you a shock if you pick up your phone at dinner. I’d gift that out at Christmas! *laughs*

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you!

  • Amber Osborne

    This gave me a good laugh Pauline! I have the same experience at home. I think you know you’ve got a technology problem when you are tweeting at your housemates from the other room. *guilty*

  • Amber Osborne

    Thanks Al! 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    You said it well Amit, “losing the ability to observe is a vital loss to the quality of life.”… As an observer myself, (I love people watching!) I feel like i’ve missed out on a huge part of my life staring at screens.

  • Jen Dennis

    “I think it might be the lack in these situations of validation and personal response that we usually we get through our social networks …” YES!!!

  • “What we post, and the life we live online is not ours; it’s for others.” — I would disagree with this statement. I personally feel it is for both. There are many times I’ve checked in privately on Foursquare or posted photos on Facebook “Only Me” so that I have a record of what I’ve done or where I’ve been.

    I was recently going through photos of a trip to NYC from 3 years ago and single photos from Foursquare helped me totally remember experiences I’ve had that would otherwise been forgotten.

    I would argue (and maybe this is what you are saying) that people need more of a balance between their digital life and “real life”.

    But if there real life is their digital life, who are we to judge?

  • Honestly, some wearables could have the opposite effect. I have the Samsung Gear Live and since it is mainly for receiving notifications or quickly replying to messages, I find that I’m on my phone a lot less browsing Facebook or Twitter.

    Google says that people check their phones 110-150x a day. Many times those “checks” turn into consuming senseless content. With the wearable, I find that I still check frequently but don’t get sucked into the Internet’s black holes of content consumption.

  • Tiffany Brown

    At my last Tool concert, my friends and I spent so much time taking video of the sets that we didn’t quite live in the actual moment of being there. Of course this was mostly because we wanted to be able to “re-live” the experience later, and not so much because we were looking to share about it on social media. Either way, it’s a double-edged sword, as it’s actually good promotion for the musicians for fans to be sharing about their experiences at concerts, and its also a good way for fans to build and share in the online community of fellow fans, but as for actually enjoying the show itself? Now that’s something to definitely think more about!

  • Amber Osborne

    Exactly James, there needs to be balance. I’m not going to get rid of my phone, but I will make sure it doesn’t consume those great experiences in life or ruin other’s experiences. Also, I still have your incredible metal business card in my wallet James. I’m all about physical mementos too to back up my memories…That’s something that I know will not go away if a online service does.

  • Amber Osborne

    Yeah, it’s such a conflicting feeling. You want to have something to remember later, but then I usually remember there’s going to be a video on YouTube later by some other person that probably has a better view and camera than I do. *laughs* It’s great to review and promote the band and show, but I usually wait till after… musicians need all the online love they can get. Now to think of it… Oh my, could you imagine someone with a laptop sitting next to you writing a show review during the show? I would be dumbfounded. I usually say if you want to remember the show…take a few photos, enjoy the show and raid the merchandise booth afterwards!

  • Amber Osborne

    *high five*

  • Amber Osborne

    Our head of technology’s wife actually hid his wearable watch. Too many notifications, customer support requests in the middle of the night… *laughs* But I agree James, you are probably less likely to browse and get sucked into the time wasting black hole using wearables.

  • Tiffany Brown

    Thankfully, I haven’t seen that yet (laptops)! All good points.

  • Amber Osborne

    Now I have Tool stuck in my head…. There’s actually a great set of lyrics from Schism that somewhat fit nicely into this post. “Bring the pieces together to rediscover communication.”

  • I have noticed at school performances many parents watch it through their camera or tablet. I make a point not to tape more than a few moments because you miss the ‘reality’ of what is happening.

    It is nice to have a record. It is nice to connect digitally for a moment but if you don’t disconnect you miss more than when you stay online.

  • Amber Osborne

    Great point Josh! This isn’t anything new just amplified. I remember many holidays waking up to the blinding light of my Dad’s massive VHS Camcorder in the 80’s. That he took that thing everywhere. I’m grateful of this now since I have my whole childhood on video. However, he never forgot to actually interact with us. Except that time I got stuck in the toliet when I was three… he really should have intervened there. *laughs*

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you for the Twitter love too! 🙂

  • Could not agree with you more! Two thumbs up and yes…that’s how I roll…be present, not connected, when you’re in the presence. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Funny you mention this as I just heard a comedian say audiences in Vegas are notoriously the worst, at least for standup. Maybe the trend is more universal.

    I also just read an article that shows this disconnection effect is affecting restaurants as well. One restaurant discovered through comparing surveillance tapes from 2004 and 2014 that phone usage was the main cause in their table turnover time going from 1:05 per table to 1:55.

  • I just saw the same show last night in Chicago, hence me following the link from Twitter but the overall sentiment of the entire post I completely agree with.

    There’s one thing using the tech to document kids’ recitals because like Amber said it replaces a cumbersome VHS from back in the day and my kids love looking back even a year or two on the computer. Plus super easy to edit and share with family all across the country.

    As for concerts, and last night I snapped a bunch of shots with my phone, quickly, but I was front row and it’s unusual for me to be that close. Otherwise I take one or two, quickly, and put the phone away. Plus, the iPhone takes crappy concert photos. You just paid lots of money to see a band “live’ arranged for a night away from kids (if you are a parent) or even if not a night out late, travel, parking etc. You should sit there and enjoy it.

    Smartphones are great for waiting in lines for lunch or travel and getting stuff done remotely but can very easily take over. You’ve just got to use in moderation like everything else in life.

    Also Amber, crowd in Chicago was pretty good. Not great but it was an outdoor amphitheater with fixed seating. You can’t get that riled up…even where I was standing on the side. They wouldn’t let us up on the rail sadly.

  • Amber Osborne

    I love this comment David. You nailed it. Thanks for sharing your experience! Yeah, we had fixed seating in the front pit area in Vegas. However, i’ve been at a Frankie Valli concert with fixed seating and that crowd got wild, none of them were on their phones. Hmmm. I’d love to compare concerts of different demographics and ages, crowd participation/activity and cellphone use. Could be interesting. 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    Thanks Kaarina! 🙂

  • I did this at the Book of Mormon the other day – put my phone on airplane mode and put it away. As much as I love being connected, I love being in the moment more. During the entire time I was at the World Domination Summit, I took maybe 10 pictures total. I was actually enjoying my experience and taking more time to let things digest – which actually helps when I’m talking about it. Sharing things in the moment can be great at times (like at conferences), but it takes away from my personal enjoyment. I tend to miss moments when I’m too busy checking my phone and trying to share the moment with the world – who may not even care at the time.

  • I cannot agree with Amber more…

    … there is an interesting shift in trends though that’s worth accounting for: wearables, and the eventual further steps towards making ubiquitous computing a reality, will effectively solve this conundrum, won’t they? When digital becomes real and real becomes digital – or will we experience the same disconnect between the two?

    I usually take a few pictures at the very start of an even, check in on Foursquare, but after that put the tech away and just enjoy the experience. I agree with Amber: there are usually people with way better equipment and vantage points than me. Also, if other people take a picture of me, I’m in it! 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you Greg!!!

  • Amber Osborne

    I’m really glad they make us put our phones away during trivia. 😀

  • Living in the moment may become the bookend to living simply.

    Thank you Amber for putting a spotlight on this.

  • Amber Osborne

    Well said Craig!

  • This week I went to see The Dave Matthews Band. When the show started, half the audience turned their backs to the stage and took a selfie. Can you imagine what that looked like from the stage?

  • Amber Osborne

    Ugh….I have some comments on what that looked like, but they aren’t PG-13. 😀

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  • Chris Curran

    Thanks for making this point so well, Amber. Unfortunately I can only see this trend getting worse. I feel it will be up to each person individually to be respectful with their own smartphone use, and at the same time find a way to accept all the zombies without getting angry with them. Not easy. Unless, of course, their actions are endangering others. Thanks Miss Destructo!

  • Amber Osborne

    I always think, what would Barry do. 😀

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  • For the last year or so, it feels like there is a collective shift — moving away from checking in, live-Tweeting, insta-blogging, and instagramming. One of the best conversations I had two weeks ago was with a friend where we talked for hours catching up on everything. It was nice to talk with my friend who didn’t already know every happy or sad story in my life because it something that was posted on my wall or in my stream. It was personalized and unfiltered just for that person at that moment. It was more special than 100 likes on FB post. Present in the moment is what we need more of…

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  • Herb Silverman

    Amber, you made this so compelling and poignant that I applaud you very much. I agree wholeheartedly; it is the difference between technology and thinking.

    I know firsthand that sometimes technology is a great asset. Suffering a stroke at the age of 27 and losing the ability to communicate both written and verbal, technology was definitely my friend. Over time, using apps and hard work, I would say that without technology, my life could’ve been a lot different. (Even now, I am writing on a voice activated software program, because my grammar and spelling are the worst!)

    However, technology is cold, isolated and the most part, singular. Thinking, on the other hand, and especially the art of conversation, takes creative thinking, ingenuity and brainpower. You can do it anywhere, anytime and you don’t have to have a smart phone, laptop or computer. In other words, you can be free.

    So, your article was right on track! Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

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  • Ana Isabel Canhoto

    I came across some research, not long ago, saying that people that take pictures of their food (e.g., for Instagram), rate the food lower but the overall experience higher than people who do not (take pics of their food). It does seem that taking pictures is quickly becoming an integral part of how we experience something. Strange times, indeed…

  • Claudia Licher

    I’m with you. The phenomenon is not new, but ten years ago it wasn’t the whole audience that was disconnected.

    A week ago we went to see a movie (our son is mad about dragons..). When the message to turn off your phone appeared on screen a couple of kids hissed “Mum, turn your phone off” and guess what mum (sitting a few seats away) said: “…that’s only during the movie, I can send an email before it starts”. Um. What? It’s Saturday. You’re with your kids. What’s so important that it can’t wait?

    It was actually rather odd when, nearly ten years ago, a fellow student stopped mid-conversation because she got a phone call. And talked as though the people in front of her had ceased to exist. No apology. Nothing. Just her friend’s comment that “she’s always like that”. Nowadays that friend would probably be engrossed with whatever was happening on her own phone.

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  • christinegeraci

    How so very sad that Chris Cornell even had to say that. Thank you for writing this post. I think we need an app that will block your screen with the message “Live First, Post Later” every time you look down at your phone. Might make people think twice before they digitally immerse themselves at the expense of their real-life experiences!

  • Lauren Mikov

    Preach it, sister! Two weekends ago I did my first car race – the 24 Hours of LeMons. Knowing I’d have inconsistent cell service and no WiFi at the track, I prescheduled my clients’ posts and resolved to just focus on racing for the weekend. It was one of my best weekends ever! My team was shocked that I wasn’t live-tweeting our efforts, but I was so wrapped up in enjoying the experience.

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  • Amber Osborne

    That is so awesome Lauren!! What an experience!! 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    THIS. Let’s do it!! 🙂

  • christinegeraci

    YES!…but how?

  • Shunn

    Thank you, I completely agree! It’s disrespectful for the people around you. And even if I have now tons of posts about my
    traveling to write, at least i’ve lived the trip and fully enjoyed it! 😉

  • Wonderlusting

    Every Prince gig I’ve been to he’s insisted on no phones and the audience has pretty much respected that. Beyond the disrespect, we now seem to feel the need to show “proof” of what we’ve done so showing off to others is more important than experiencing ourselves.

  • Donna Stewart

    Sadly we are losing the ability to communicate the human way.

  • Amber, this is such a great post. My boyfriend and I are currently on a round the world trip and last month at Machu Picchu, we both went nuts for a couple of hours, taking photos from every possible angle, on our 2 cameras + 2 phones.

    After a bit, looking around in awe at where I was, I suggested we put the cameras away and enjoy just being at Machu Picchu. Best decision ever. We spent 3 more hours at the grounds, just taking in the experience – we even found a spot in the sun where we lay down and had a mini nap. By not focusing on taking a million photos, I think we ended up having such beautiful memories of the place. And, we still have some great photos. You just don’t need a 100 photos of the same thing do you?

    We’ve resolved that we’re not going to let cameras dominate our experience – just take a few pictures but focus more on enjoying the experience of being somewhere. Don’t get me wrong – I love taking photos, I love Instagram but I think we need to stop more, step back, breathe and think that 20 years from now, do we really want to remember an experience through the lens of a camera and/or phone?

  • This is such a great reminder! Thank you for taking the time to write this 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you Justine!

  • Amber Osborne

    I’ve always thought the same thing Radhika!

  • Amber Osborne

    Agreed! I heard about this policy with other bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs too. Pictures are one thing but being on the phone the entire time… yikes 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you Shunn!

  • Amber Osborne

    Thank you Herb. Also what an amazing story, glad to have connected with you. 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    Agreed. Sometimes I feel like there’s nothing to talk about with friends because they know everything that is going on.

  • Absolutely yes. Now a days every time I go somewhere, I know I’ll have the urge to take pictures, so I’ll take pictures to capture the moment, but go through and post later. Ain’t nobody got time for that in the middle of life! Haha 😉

  • Herb Silverman

    I am honored; thanks again. Have a terrific rest of the week!

  • Hi Amber,

    “Metaphorically of course.” … I do this all the time 😉

    The other day my wife was driving down I-5 in Seattle. As a passenger, I was counting the number of people focused on their devices, NOT the road.

    I’d say five out of 10 had their nose buried in their smart phone, not on the road – even the guy picking his nose 😉

    THIS is why I’m anxiously awaiting that damn Google car.

  • Johanna Westberg


  • Jake Parent

    I have a park near my house where I go to read and to write. It’s one of my favorite places.

    But one of the sad parts about spending time there is watching person after person come and sit down on one of the park’s benches. For about three minutes they look around. Put their hands on their knees. And try to take a few deep breaths.

    Inevitably, however, they have their phones out within five minutes.

    Within ten, they are gone. Back to worry and complain about whatever stress in their life that sent them to the park in the first place.

  • Jake Parent

    That’s a great idea.

  • Amber Osborne

    I see this all the time too Jake. *sigh*

  • Amber Osborne

    Thanks Johanna!

  • Amber Osborne

    You and I both brother… you and I both.

  • Amber Osborne

    Ain’t nobody got time for that is my new life motto. 🙂

  • Amber Osborne

    I agree Donna. I think however all forms of technology from the newspaper to the tv have had their “growing pains” of user adoption and overuse.

  • Amber Osborne

    I saw that too!

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  • I have two points of view. First is for the price of my ticket if you aren’t good enough to capture my attention that is a BIG ISSUE. I saw Soundgarden in 1992 play Cop Killer live from 3rd row hanging on fighting not to be swept into the mosh pit at Lalapalooza. It was AMAZING. But that said while Louder than Love and Bad Motor Finger were epic albums Super Unknown was only So-So and they sold out after that.

    This is a MAJOR ISSUE in my life and has been for years Bands I idolized selling out then dying (so many have done this) or living forever making sucky music that goes platinum. I hate U2 after Unforgettable Fire. I hate REM after Document. I hate Blues Traveler after Travelers and Thieves. I hate the Red Hot Chili Peppers after Blood Sugar Sex Magic. I hate NIN after the Fragile. Ozzy after Diary of a Madman. Judas Priest after Screaming for Vengeance. Pantera after their Far Beyond Driven. Its ok. They went soft or pop all of them. But it hurt every time.

    I have every right to have no respect for the sell outs. But WHY would anyone pay the big money to see a concert with those feelings.Really just to taunt them in person? I cherished my old memories. I saw NIN for their Broken tour (still best album) and U2 at Madison Square Garden in 1985. No need to ruin those memories with something that can’t live up today.

    I agree with you that your experience shouldnt of been ruined by someone like me only caring when Soundgarden played music from their early albums. Very rude. They should do what I did. Walk away and just play the music I loved by them.

  • Jennifer S.

    So Much Yes!

  • Lombok Life

    Nice article Amber, thanks. Certainly a case of time and place. Whilst I do agree with the sentiment, I’m certainly glad my parents had their (analogue) camera out as much as they did when I was young…those photos in the family album are priceless. #Balance.

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