There are way too many standing ovations given these days. Can you think of the last time you went to a concert where at least half the audience didn't stand at the end? I sure can't. It's just plain gotten out of hand.
It used to be that standing ovations were given for either extremely important people (the emperor enters), or for performances or feats that were so amazing that the audience was moved to rise from their seats and cheer. It took some kind of special performance to get that kind of reaction. I can't even remember the last time I was so impressed with something that I had to get out of my seat. Maybe I'm just lazy, but in my head, standing ovations are meant to be uncommon or even rare events.
These days though, you can't escape the standing ovation. It's almost expected. They're never the Hollywood "audience leaps to its feet as one" thing either. What usually happens is that one person eventually stands, then another, and another until most people are standing. I think the later people stand out of obligation, or maybe because they can't see now that the jerk in front of them stood up.
That kind of ovation just isn't the same. It seems like a combination of obligation, herd mentality, and wanting to be seen to appreciate art.
As a performer, I want to get a standing ovation. I want my performance to be so moving that the audience is compelled to stand when it's done. I don't want the audience to clap for a while, think about it, look around to see if anyone else is standing, then eventually stand because someone else is.
So next time you're at a performance, think before you stand. Maybe even close your eyes. If the performance moved you to, stand right away, no matter if anyone else is. But if you don't feel moved to stand, don't. Applaud as long and as loud as you want, but don't stand just because someone else is. Standing after a performance should say to the performer "you moved me". The performer won't mind not getting a standing ovation, I promise. Really, we're just glad that you came and liked it enough to clap in the first place.