The greatest social currency in my life circa 2011 was the amount of likes and comments I got on my Facebook profile. Looking back on it now, social media of the early 2010s is sort of a prehistoric wasteland, but to my tween self, it was fertile terrain rife with possibility. My first post was an unmistakable splash, more striking than a David Hockney canvas.
“If you think I’m cute, like my status.” It got six likes. I rode that high for just as many days.
I had established a clear brand with hits such as “English. Boring.” and an automated announcement that my new occupation was “Pokémon Master” at “Kanto Region.” This was a time when people would take the sans serif inquiry of “What’s on your mind?” at the top of their feeds to heart, but there was an unspoken social contract that one’s thoughts had to be sublimely curated to entertain the masses. For personal and unchecked raw emotion to seep into one’s status updates was a character assassination. And when I first downloaded Spotify, an attempt on my life was made.
This article has no concern with establishing primacy in the great music streaming service war, because I only want to establish for context I was a relatively early adopter of Spotify (and have a starred playlist dating back to 2012 to prove it). Back in those naïve years, when the three curves on the Spotify logo were still white, the app had a sneaky feature where it could publish your listening activity to your Facebook profile in a rash of pathogenic posts. Like most embarrassing things, I was notified of it through the teasing of my friends who reported to me that their feed was plagued with undying notifications all prefixed by “Cassandra Mansuetti listened to.”
I ran to the family computer when I got home, typed my troubles into Google with the fastest fingers in the west and triple checked that the “feature” had been turned off. I pleaded to the most convenient higher power that my mom had not been online recently enough to prompt a conversation about how I’ve been “rotting my brain” with 2Pac, J. Cole and other explicit rappers.
However, I discovered a terrible tool that day. Two deadly words: “Private session.” It was a foolproof way to prevent any further ridicule for my musical tastes from my peers. Little did I know that clicking the off button was tantamount to curling the index finger of a monkey’s paw.
My Spotify history has mostly remained private since then. The rare occasions when I went public were in service of haughty masters; I wanted to flex on my friends my superior (i.e. superficial) knowledge of classic rock or the golden age of hip hop. For a brief time I was a card-carrying member of “the wrong generation,” a period of my young idiocy I look back on with shame. Ironic, because shame was what I was trying to hide when I switched out of a private session.
I was afraid people would think I’m lame for listening to the Jupiter movement of Holst’s “The Planets” or songs off the “Les Mis” soundtrack. I was afraid people would think I’m queer for listening to the likes of Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or any other “girly” popstar. I was afraid people would think I have no taste if I listened to “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Somebody That I Used to Know” non-ironically after trashing its popularity at school. I had slowly built up a reputation as a knowledgeable source of music recommendations for my peers, one who went against the popular status quo of 14-year-olds and thought he could blow your world right open. The last thing my anxious self wanted was for that cool part of me to crumble.
The common thread that made me question my fears was that they were focused on how I perceived other people’s opinions of me. I asked myself, “Besides the middle school teasing, has anyone ever negatively commented on my choice of music?” The answer was a simple no. Plus, the fact that the number of connected friends I have on Spotify is comparatively lower than my count of Facebook friends and that most everyone listens to music on their phone nowadays and can’t even see their friends’ history was enough for me to make my Spotify history public, from now until the heat death of the universe.
The private session is a paradox. Many people swear by it and equate accidentally forgetting to click the option to social suicide. Yet in hiding behind this digital wall, the enriching social aspect of music — sharing recommendations, geeking out over your faves, finding new common ground with new friends — is completely obliterated.
Many a time I’ve accidently stumbled upon great music by simply clicking on the various songs my friends were listening to. If I love you as a person, what’s to say I won’t love your favorite music? Although my musical perception of the world was quite myopic in my early teenage years, it was slowly expanded by sharing it with others. It’s criminal to not to pay attention to the suggestions of others and only listen to the same handful of artists for the rest of your lifetime.
So, if you’re up to it, make a vow to only break out the private session in case of emergencies. Sure, people may see you’ve been listening to “Still Into You” for the past 15 minutes, but c’mon: In 2018, everyone likes Paramore. Instead of both listening to After Laughter ashamedly in the confines of our bedroom and our headphones, let’s dance to it together.