Saturday, May 17, 2008

I went to the Justin Timberlake concert but wasn’t there.

I’m not big on concerts, they’re stuffy and you’re always stuck next to some asshole who is quite unyielding in bouncing his Pumas over the Havaianas you decide to wear in the heat of what was one of your dimmer moments. So anyhow, every star seems quite persistent about the whole ‘anticipation makes the appetite grow stronger’ thingy and justifiably so. 36 Puma stomps later, Justin Timberlake graces us with his silhouette anthemically poised amidst smoke, strobes and 3000 squealing 14 year olds wearing some type of a crossbreed between a skirt and top, let’s just call them pelvic drapes.

Now the very same scene 15 years ago at a Michael Jackson concert wouldn’t fair too differently, more squealing 14 years olds many of which are on stretchers and sporting slightly wider pelvic drapes. Both concerts kick off in the same manner the music erupts, the ponytail sporting pyrotechnic pushes a couple of buttons, lights blaze and the vague silhouette comes to life in a majestic multisensory uproar. What happens next is where difference occurs. Today instead of 10,000 people erupting in unified frenzied sacrificing their undivided attention to the god on the alter-like stage, you have 10,000 people who opt to pull out their phone cameras and start watching the Justin Timberlake concert they paid their monthly allowance on through a 1.2 inch Nokia screen…

It seems apparent that people today are more adamant about garnering proof of presence as opposed to actually being present at certain events. This collected factoid, and I stress on the word factoid in due of the existential theory that you were there but weren’t really, is then taken and poured into public sphere that makes up their identity…Facebook, Youtube, Emails and Blogs as a testament…Yes I was there, I saw Justin Timberlake.

Through the decades, I would argue that little has changed in terms of our innate human desire to gloat about our experiences in an attempt to construct idealized versions of ourselves. The only difference is that today we are provided with the illusion of a mass collective interest in ourselves making us more self conscious than ever. To put it simply; we all think we’re famous to some degree. We blog to an assumed audience of 1,000,000 when in reality my site tracker clocked in 9 visits yesterday, our profiles on facebook are carefully scripted with quotes, foreign film preferences, lists of books we never really finished and detailed list of artists no one has heard of. Even those counterculture rebels who consciously opt to leave profiles blank are making some form of a statement. Our status’s get consistent updates with attempts at deep and clever mindboggling statements where ‘Nabil is what is isn’t’ to snippets of our interesting opinions on the narratives populating today’s collective consciousness, ‘Rami is pissed’. And of course, we are quite enthusiastic on adding innumerable applications that provide answers to many of life’s antagonizing questions like what type of condom we are. All of these applications specifically engineered and enthused by the innate human desire to talk and talk and talk about our most favorite subject in the world…us.

So to head back to the starting point of this rant, the notion of the Justin Timberlake experience or lack thereof, attendance has now transformed from an experience to a social currency leaving me intrigued as a marketer, worried as a human and slightly sympathetic toward an isolated Justin who now performs to Bobs facebook friend list…