This weekend the eyes of the world turned to London as hundreds of 4K TV cameras broadcast every moment of King Charles’s coronation, in intricate detail.
Every second of the processions was captured for eternity by perfectly positioned camera people, with their outputs broadcast across every major TV channel and available online almost instantaneously.
Despite this, and despite the fact that it was also one of the most photographed occasions in modern times, almost every person lining the streets to see the splendour for themselves, chose to watch it through their mobile phones.
Many of these folks had camped out for days to grab a prime spot on the procession route. They had sacrificed their dignity to ensure they didn’t miss a second of it. But when the moment came and the King did finally glide by in his carriage, many of them whipped out their phones and watched him through a six-inch screen.
Why do we do this?
Why do we have to record absolutely everything on our phones? Do we think we’re somehow going to capture something, while peering between bodies and umbrellas, that the BBC will have missed?
As I watched the endless phones in the air this weekend, I wanted to scream at them all to put their devices away and just enjoy the spectacle. From the perspective of the King, the whole procession must have seemed like a festive visit to the Apple Store.
And let’s face it, whenever we do hold our phones above our heads to capture important moments, the end results are far from perfect. The backs of heads, other phones and sky often form the bulk of the footage – hardly what we want to be showing our grandchildren in years to come.
“And here we are at the King’s Coronation. There’s the back of your gran’s head, that’s an umbrella that someone was waving and there, through the mass of waving arms, between the horses, policemen and soldiers, in the very bottom right hand corner of the screen, is the edge of the top of the King’s carriage, I think!”
Missing magical moments
But I am as guilty as the rest of them. I’ve been to concerts before where, despite saying to myself that using my phone to record the moment was ridiculous, there I was doing exactly that, together with thousands of others.
Most bands release official videos of their gigs anyway, which unsurprisingly make for better viewing than fans’ random efforts from the back of the stadium. Nevertheless, at the time it seemed important.
I think we have become unconsciously conditioned to use our phones to record everything these days. The ease of doing so, coupled with our compulsion to share our lives online as quickly and often as we can, means that we now instinctively get our phones out whenever we are in a situation that is slightly different from the norm.
Back in the day, before we valued likes, shares and comments, we used to be much more considered in what we would film and photograph, not least because we only got 36 photos in a roll of film and would have to wait a fortnight for them to come back from being processed.
Today though, we crave immediacy, so we use our phones to feed our addiction, sacrificing real life experiences in the process. The result, I suspect, is that thousands of people who attended the Coronation this weekend will be sharing their memories of the day via their phone photos and videos. But are they sharing real memories of what they actually experienced?
And the real question is, can any of us resist the impulse to film and photograph on future occasions like this weekend? Be honest, could you?