I’m not always the biggest tech person. Let’s just say I still have a flip phone. I don’t text much and if I have to text you back, it takes four pushes on the 7 to get an “s”. I still prefer that ancient form of communication, email. So it was with great trepidation that my parents gave me a playbook for Christmas. They hovered, watched me open it, and immediately offered the opportunity to take it back. They also blamed Santa for choosing the wrong gift. See, I’m not opposed to technology, I just generally don’t spend money on it. So I kept it and spent the rest of the night on it doing fascinating things like downloading 27 free books and playing one frustrating game of tetris. “See the monster you’ve created?” I asked my parents as they waved from across the room to get my attention.
One thing I discovered in the process of figuring this thing out was that you can get on to twitter on the playbook, but you can’t sign out. At least, I can’t (does anyone know how to do this?). I only signed up for twitter – it is not at all my thing – because I’m in the middle of a career change and my friends told me that potential employers look for evidence that I can manage a twitter account, or that I have a profile on Linked In, etc. I can make a tweet, but not well, and I don’t get the etiquette of twitter at all – if you’re retweeted, do you say thanks? Is favouriting the same thing as liking? That way of thinking on the part of employers drives me crazy – I’d far rather be working on acquiring skills or reading about something in my field than figuring out the rules of tweeting – but it is the way of the world.
The result of staying perpetually signed in to twitter is that you see constant updates. I’m not used to this, because I look at it maybe once or twice a week, and give up after scrolling halfway down the page. I’m all for being concise, but I’m not sure that the brevity brought about by twitter’s limitations has made updating all that interesting.
Anyway, did you know that some singers tweet all the time? I didn’t.
I was having a conversation with a friend earlier this year about singers who tweet and tell their followers a lot about their daily and/or personal lives and we both agreed that with some people, it gets to be a bit much. Here I am saying that after an opening that described my Christmas present in detail. I do see the hypocrisy. Overtweeting might be annoying to some fans, but more importantly for me, it makes the boundaries between performer and audience, and the reasons we like our singers, different from what they used to be.
I’m a proponent of ‘write what you know’. That’s why I write about my experiences with music, or about the music I have studied. That’s why I don’t write western Harlequin novels, despite my mother’s urging that I should (and the small fraction of the collection of free books I got last night that are of that specific genre) (very small! Like two, ok?). I have not had the experience of an injured rodeo star making his way up the road to my place after his truck breaks down, only to help me decorate the house for Christmas, take care of the chores, and save the ranch from being acquired by the threatening landowner next door, while I nurse him back to health. (Yet.) The write what you know philosophy determines why we like the performers we do. We assume they are writing from their own experiences, whether they are breakups, stories from the road, deeply personal challenges, or particular views on current events. We like that they expose their innermost thoughts through the poetry of lyrics, a uniquely ambiguous form that tells you everything at the same time that it tells you nothing. We wonder if their anger is genuine, if they’ll ever find that boyfriend again. At the same time, we project our own experiences onto those same lyrics, admiring the performer for somehow knowing exactly what we’ve been thinking.
Then, next day, we open our twitter pages and see a picture of the pancakes and bacon they ate for breakfast and suddenly those magical lyrics don’t seem so magical. Suddenly that performer is as real as the rest of us. They probably actually burped after eating those pancakes.
Poor celebrities. The ones who do manage their own social media are scrutinized to death: did they spell "you’re" correctly? Are they able to string a full sentence together? Meanwhile, these very celebrities are hiding behind the walls they’ve erected in an effort to escape all the people who want to be noticed by them, want something out of them, and they use this new, kind of anonymous medium to communicate with people. Who can they trust? Who is actually going to talk to them like they are a normal person? Sometimes I read the comments on the musician facebook posts that come up in my feed, and most people don’t even respond to the singer’s original statement. Most people comment just to comment: “Dude, your show last week was awesome.” “LOL, I love pancakes too.”
So, we’re ending up with quite a different performer-audience interaction than even ten years ago. In many ways, it’s necessary for performers to be constantly in your social media face, so that you remember to buy their album and tickets to their concerts, when the record labels aren’t doing much to promote them anymore. Still, I did a lot of research on one particular band in the early 2000s, and I spent ages digging around for interviews, newspaper clippings, pictures, all of which I kept carefully bound together in my files. I went through their lyric booklets and liner notes again and again, trying to figure out their relationships to fellow performers, producers, managers, partners, families, and each other. Now, I just open youtube and I can get 300 interviews on my first search. It’s all very useful for research or totally obsessed fans, but it completely eliminates any mystery that previously existed. In fact, I hate it because I don’t think I want to know everything about the singers I like. They don’t want to know everything (anything) about me, so why would the reverse be true? If you only rely on the small pieces of information offered by lyrics, interviews, performances, and liner notes, there might still be some magic left in the performers you love.
Basically, I’m a curmudgeon. Or old school. Or whatever you want to call me. I looked through the music available for purchase on my playbook and found a great album, and almost bought it. Then I thought, I bet that’s available in an actual store, and I closed the program (app?). Maybe I'm not so into this stuff after all.
An aside to anyone who made it through this ramble. It’s year-end, and those thoughts of what/who was great in the past 12 months roll around in our heads. It shouldn’t take the holiday spirit/take-stock-of-2012 for me to say this, but I’d like to publicly thank both Kyla Fairchild and Kim Ruehl for their tireless work in keeping this site going. I made one of my best friends of 2012 through ND and found many other new contacts and friends, and none of that would have been possible without our two great girls. Thanks, and may 2013 bring you all the best music you’ve ever heard. On CD. Or vinyl.