Can You FaceTime During A Concert?

Blog From The <3

Is FaceTiming During A Concert Ever OK?

In which NYLON’s culture editor has a change of heart — and a new perspective on show etiquette.

I’ve never been someone to “let people enjoy things.” Present me with a stupid, bad, or annoying opinion, and I’ll tell you exactly why you’re wrong. Or at least, I used to do that.

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of conversations centered around what it means to be in the moment. I don’t think we need to be incessantly recording nights out for content, and I want to believe we have enough self-control to not scroll while watching a movie. This all fits into an even larger discussion around concert etiquette happening online (see: “direct-to-TikTok'' gig consumption and Mitski asking her fans to enjoy her shows in lieu of recording the entire set — and being met with proverbial pitchforks). Everyone wants to have fun at a show, but based on my observations, the 2024 definition of having a good time is now split between dancing versus standing perfectly still to get the best video possible. And whichever side of the divide you fall on, there’s no escaping some kind of pushback: If you complain, you’re told you sound like a Boomer shaking their fist at the sky; and if you have your phone out, you’re labeled as a selfish young person with no respect for others.

I had all this in mind when I recently went to see Elyanna perform at Irving Plaza. Watching from the balcony, the crowd below was a sea of keffiyehs and solidarity as Elyanna and her dancers unleashed hypnotic choreography. Her vocals — stronger and more passionate than I expected — blew me away. It was an electric, IRL experience, save for one minor annoyance: a middle-aged man FaceTiming the entire show next to me. At first, I was annoyed. Wasn’t this only something Gen Z did? Sometimes his phone would veer near my head and I’d notice that he wasn’t even showing the stage to the woman on the other side of the screen. Could she even hear the show? What was the point of this?

“The 2024 definition of having a good time is now split between dancing versus standing perfectly still to get the best video possible.”

After huffing and puffing to my fiancé a few times, I began to soften when I noticed that every time the reception would drop, the man would immediately reconnect. I’d catch glimpses of the woman smiling widely, and she clapped at the end of every song. A few teenage girls popped in to watch with her, but only the woman remained glued to the iPhone screen. Clearly, this night was important to her. I finally took a good look at her and saw she was crying watching an off-center, shaky-image Elyanna sing from below. I was already feeling moved by the performance, but this unexpected moment of tenderness brought a much-needed dose of perspective. I wondered about her connection to Elyanna’s music. Which lyrics touched her the deepest? I thought of my own mother, who often video chats with family in Iran during celebrations when forces beyond their control keep them from attending in person. In that moment, this woman felt like my kin, as did the man facilitating the call. I didn’t know why she couldn’t be at the show, but it didn’t matter. FaceTiming was enough for her.

There’s always going to be something annoying happening at a concert, but policing etiquette deprives us of an opportunity to understand the strangers with whom we’re enjoying the music. There’s a difference between obnoxious, truly disruptive behavior — throwing things at concerts, or, speaking from personal experience, sticking gum in someone’s hair — and getting on people’s nerves. The next time I see a person FaceTiming at a show, trust that I will still absolutely roll my eyes — but I’ll also take a look at the person on the screen and derive some enjoyment from their viewing experience. Plus, there’s probably going to be a tall person in my way, so I can always grumble about that if I must.