Facebook and Spotify: Sharing is caring?

There’s no denying music is important to social interaction. It’s something you can bond over with people or find refuge in when you feel let down by reality. Sharing your love of music with family and friends can only be a good thing. Unless they comment on every song you play, even if they can’t hear it. This is now possible and even encouraged by the recent partnership between Facebook and music streaming service Spotify.

A few years back, I was an avid Last.fm user. Last.fm is a website which makes a note of every song you listen to using a downloadable plug-in, a process called scrobbling. It’s great because it creates a personalised music library which you can then access remotely, it give you statistics and graphs so you can analyse your music choices, and it gives you an opportunity to meet people with similar tastes. In 2006 when I started using the service, I was very self-aware when it came to what sort of music I listened to. Most of my friends were into metal, and some were more judgemental and narrow-minded than others. With Last.fm listing every track I played online for everyone to see, and a lot of these people up to date with the existence of the site, I felt the need to tailor and polish my profile. I never actually scrobbled songs I didn’t enjoy just to make it look like I was into a certain band. However, some artists I did enjoy, I didn’t scrobble.

Fast forward a few years. I’m no longer in touch with some of my old friends and I’ve grown up enough to know that what you listen to doesn’t necessarily define who you are as a person. I stopped obsessively controlling my last.fm profile and figured I might as well get accurate statistics and personal preference charts. A few months later I received a comment from one of the aforementioned, who still had me on their friend list on the site. The comment was a single word, with no punctuation: “wow”. I’m still not sure what exactly was implied by it, whether the sender was surprised my music taste changed and the array of genres I listen to widened, or whether they thought I had been pretending all along and now showing my true musical colours. What I am sure of is that it did generate some sort of emotional response, and it wasn’t a very pleasant one. Social acceptance was still important to me, and here was someone slamming a virtual door in my face and sliding a note under it saying “sorry, you’re no longer good enough”.

I can’t help but think the new collaboration between Spotify and Facebook is going to bring more misery than benefits. We already had the option of sharing links to videos we enjoyed or posting status updates with favourite lyrics. Do we really need a dedicated box on our profile where our friends can see exactly what we listen to, and “like” or comment on every single song? Young people are already self-conscious enough as it is, both online and offline. Should we embrace a service that might make teenagers worry about yet another aspect of their lives? A lot of them already form friendships or join groups based on music taste, and it’s bad enough that some feel the need to lie about it to feel like they belong. Only they know what they’ll face when their “friends” realise they haven’t been entirely truthful.

Listening to music should be a personal and sometimes private activity, it’s the only way to get the best out of it. Music should be enjoyed, loved, recommended and treasured, not turned into another weapon by the many bullies out there. Sharing is caring, but too much sharing can also be scaring.

This article was also published on Opinion Panel in March.

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