Tech attack: why the phone is not worth the film

Eli Lefcowitz, Staff Assistant

When was the last time you sat through an entire movie or TV show without checking your phone?  For many, during a TV show’s monotonous parts, a phone serves as a secondary entertainer until the action picks up the pace.  The consequence can be missing subtle, yet crucial, foreshadowing details, and an overall loss of quality and value.

“Whenever the plot slows down and there is dialogue, I often check my phone just to fill the time,” said sophomore Justin Harnick.  “But when I can tell there is a big moment coming up, I’ll put down my phone and go back to watching the show.”

What used to be reserved for one’s house has carried on to the movie theater.  Nowadays, it seems as if it is impossible to go to a movie without seeing someone texting.  Movie theaters have attempted to combat this with cheesy warnings and sketches showing how distracting phones can be.  But the problem persists.  The unfortunate truth is that using devices during movies is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to modern technology diluting professional entertainment.

In the not-so-distant past, most visual entertainment was professionally produced.  The slower parts of movies functioned as a “warm-up” of sorts for action present later in the film.  Watching a TV show or movie used to be a cultural spectacle.  Gradually, the interest in experiencing film without distractions has lessened, and viewers’ attention spans have significantly decreased.

After the creation of YouTube, ‘directors’ with little more than a phone can produce their own entertainment.  Viewers can be entertained without leaving their desks.  Viral YouTube videos are almost always less than five minutes long.  With the invention of Vine, an app that allows users to create and view 6-second videos, the idea of watching a 90-minute movie can be daunting.

“When I heard the movie Interstellar was almost three hours, I suddenly lost all interest,” said sophomore David Han.  “When I actually saw it, it was entertaining.”

But the issue is not how long movies are.  Rather, it is a reflection of how short we now want our entertainment to be.  We want something immediate to quench our bored minds, like six-second Vines of cats speaking or athletes scoring points to the tune of a dubstep song.  Filmmakers now have to contend with millions of these entertainers whose footprint in the entertainment industry is growing exponentially.

We consume so much entertainment on a daily basis that when we see a movie, we are less moved by it than in years past.  Seeing a movie just seems less special.  Feature-length and television program directors and actors have to work even harder nowadays to provide solid entertainment value for their audiences.  They understand that people can watch a YouTube video and be entertained, but if they want high-quality entertainment, they go to the movies.  Hopefully, this can serve as a motivator to entertainers.  Otherwise, it could be the slow death of a beloved industry.

People still watch television programs and movies, but they always seem to need something more.  Cheaply made Vines, SnapChat stories, Reddit and Instagram feeds fill up the six-seconds in which there is dialogue in an action movie, while the epic explosions and intense car chases get the most viewing time.

It is possible for professional entertainment to co-exist with amateur content.  The dilution of entertainment is not any entertainer’s, big or small, fault.  Rather, it is a reflection of our shrinking attention-spans as consumers.  The internet can be wonderful for content-consumers, but for creators it can be a curse.

So before you sit down to the next movie or TV show, forget about that duck face selfie you need to send to your friend.  Put your phone in your pocket and fully immerse yourself in quality entertainment.