Is Coachella Just a ‘Do It for the Gram’ Event?

Going to concerts nowadays is a difficult feat because of the use of cell phones during the experience. Crowds are no longer living in the moment and taking in the live performances as they are. Instead, concert goers are looking through their tiny cell phone screens at the show that is happening right in front of them so that they can post a perfect video to show their followers that yes, they are at a concert. Coachella is just one of the places where we see this “Instagram Culture” at the forefront of many people’s experiences.

Last year, I got the opportunity to go to Coachella for the first time, and my initial thought about going was, “I can’t wait to go shopping, buy new outfits (that I would never wear on a day to day basis) and post it for my (minute number of) followers on Instagram.” This year was different. I didn’t want to go to Coachella because of the posts I would inevitably share on social media; I went for the music, for the art—for the experience. And it was so much more fun that way!

Throughout the festival grounds during the two weekends in the desert, attendees are constantly photographing themselves, their friends and all that is happening around them. Instead of embracing the art installations around them and the amazing music playing on each stage, they are crouched over, working around the glares of the sun and other attendees walking around to ensure that they get the perfect shot of the perfect outfit they most likely spent hours trying to put together.

The amount of people taking photos in front of the art largely outweighs the number of people admiring it, and while we’ve all done the same thing, it’s important to remember that it’s not always necessary to post every single thing happening at the festival. You might have been present for Justin Bieber’s surprise performance or for Kanye’s Sunday church service, but wouldn’t you much rather be present and enjoy those moments instead of trying to make sure you quickly post a video of the performances? Trust me, you will find someone else’s video online when it’s over.

I am not saying I’m not guilty of partaking in Instagram Culture, because I am. But I am also aware of the imposition that posting on social media is on your life experiences. If I am going to take on the journey of going to Coachella, I want to enjoy it. And that joy can come from sharing with people the amazing time that you’re having. But with that being said, when you put your phone away, stop posting about how you’re having the best time ever, stop worrying about what you look like and just enjoy what is around you instead of focusing on posting it—that is when you really begin to have the best time ever.

Artists themselves even acknowledge that cell phones are interfering with the experiences of those attending these performances. Childish Gambino asked for no cell phones during his set, and Billie Eilish asked during one song that the crowd just be in the moment with her for that time and that if they were to record the performance, she asked them to hold their phone next to their face instead of in front of it, so that they were able to truly share the moment with her.

I understand the clout that people want for being at a festival like Coachella, but if the need we feel to post about everything we’re doing is becoming the main goal for people, I think we need to reevaluate our how we're spending our time. Taking a few pictures and some short videos of your favorite songs is okay—it’s when we go out of our way and begin to impose on our experiences and sometimes the experiences of those around us that going to an event like this becomes solely “for the gram” and no longer for the experience of being present.