Do Tweet Seats have a place in theaters?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| December 28, 2012

It's almost deplorable how attached to our phones and the online world we are. I explained just before Christmas how afraid I am to stay disconnected for too long, that I'm afraid I will miss an important email or call. I'm afraid to make the hour and a half trek back home without my phone turned on for the fear that something may go wrong – that I may get in an accident or there may be some family medical emergency.

And any other day is no different. Even while silenced, my phones are only never more than a few inches from my hands, connected and ready to be used. Or if I'm out and about, both of my phones are in my pockets, buzzing away and being checked every couple minutes.

I can hardly go a few minutes without texting someone, tweeting, Google searching, shooting off a couple emails or even playing a game. All hours of the day and, sadly, sometimes late at night, I can be found using my phones … almost religiously.

After all, smartphones are my livelihood and I have an undeniable obsession with them. I always have. And I always will, at least for the foreseeable future, especially if things keep advancing at such a mind-blowing pace.

I'll go out on a limb and say it: smartphones are the future, or at least the stepping stone to get us to the future. And now is the best time to take charge and get a grip on your usage. We are more connected now than ever, and less in tune with when we should pocket our phones. There are times where discretion and even a short disconnect are warranted, demanded and even necessary.

At my friend's funeral a few weeks ago, before even walking into the chapel, my iPhone was powered off and the battery was taken out of my Galaxy Note II. There was no way my phones were going to interrupt one of the most difficult ceremonies of my life.

But even for less important or more enjoyable times, cell phones usage should be curbed – if not totally stopped – out of courtesy and respect.

Yesterday, Daily Mail ran a piece about a Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has started offering "Tweet Seats" to those who have trouble turning off or ignoring their phones during the comedic performance, The Servant of Two Masters.

Instead of it being paralleled with a designated smokers' area which are sometimes looked down upon, notes Amar Toor of The Verge, these Tweet Seats are encouraged, seeking the most active of tweeters who might engage an outside audience online.

From the standpoint of Guthrie, the strategic Tweet Seats are quite smart. Encouraging the use of social media during an event is … rare, especially in theater. Even more rare in opera or orchestra. But this just might spark conversation of said show and provide what is essentially free marketing for the theater.

Few enthusiasts, I imagine, will support the idea. It's rude and disrespectful to the performers, who would otherwise (and should) hold your undivided attention. Why pay money to go see something if you're going to spend half the time with your nose buried in your phone?

Guthrie assures that the balcony Tweet Seats will not disrupt or interfere with the rest of the audience. Said Director Trish Santini:

"This cast is an incredible ensemble of comedians, and night after night they're riffing and improvising — it's the kind of show that makes you ask, ‘Did they just say that?' Usually they did — and tweeting should be a great way to talk about it."

Maybe. But The Verge's Toor put it superbly, "That's assuming that people will choose to tweet about the performance instead of other things, which may be a big ask of human nature."

Being a compulsive Twitter user, I know if it weren't impolite to use a cell phone during these performances, I likely wouldn't tweet about the ongoing performance. It might start out that way. But three or four tweets in and I'm replying to mentions and the tweets derail to various topics.

My fear, though, is that this Tweet Seat trend could spread, that cell phone usage might eventually be permitted in other areas, such as movie theaters.

Moving cell phone users up and out of the rest of the crowd solves on half the problem: blinding displays in a dimly lit auditorium. But having a section dedicated to cell phone usage doesn't make it any less ill-mannered towards the performers. Whether you're listening to a concert, watching a comedic act, opera, or simply a movie, cell phone use in the theater is disrespectful. You're there to see a performance or the product of many people's hard work. You spent your money to be there and so did many others. Take an hour or two of your time and put the cell phone down. It's good practice and actually quite refreshing from time to time.

How do you feel about Tweet Seats, folks? Should there be more of these? Should the be stopped before they're truly started?