After recently logging on to the online music service Spotify, I noticed a new Christmas album from the cast of the TV show “Glee.” Intrigued, I clicked on the icon and began listening to sugar-pop renditions of Yuletide hits, with an extra helping of sass. Imagine my surprise when I started getting a steady stream of Facebook comments from friends mocking my Glee choice.
I had forgotten that I previously allowed Spotify to post my listening choices directly to my Facebook wall. I ran online and posted a disclaimer Status Update before some Facebook “friend” called me a Gleek. That would be bleak.
THIS CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN.
So here was my problem. How do I maintain the carefully crafted, witty and smart online persona I've been honing for myself on social media, while listening to music that gets appreciated at the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards?
One might assume the answer to my problem was to turn off Spotify's connection to Facebook. But as an attention whore, I want the world to see and comment on my music. It’s another reason for people to be talking about ME.
Instead, I censored myself on Spotify. Before clicking a song, I’d ask myself, “I know I want to listen this song, but do I want to be caught listening to this song?” It didn’t work. The joy of Spotify is to listen to music that I wouldn't buy, sampling new bands, playing tracks suggested by Facebook friends, and indulging in guilty pleasures. Clamping down on this somewhat random sampling took the joy - and the value - out of Spotify.
My solution was an app that I could develop myself. I call it sModify. If a user like me plays a song on Spotify that seem to be popular with pre-teen girls, sModify posts a more appropriate song title on Facebook. So:
I listen to
and Facebook says I'm listening to
Avril Lavigne’s “Wish You Were Here”
Arcade Fire’s “We Used To Wait”
any Taylor Swift song
Adele's "Somewhere Without You"
Since I don’t really have the skillset to create my own apps, I turned to the web for a solution. In doing a little Googling, I found that Spotify had actually added a “Private Listening” mode back in October. I’ve had this option in the Spotify menu for two months. Problem solved!
But here's the thing…
Once I started using Spotify’s Private Session mode, I started evaluating each song choice through my embarrassment filter: “What song am I going to listen to next? Should I turn Private Session on or off? What does this song say about me?” It was exhausting. The more I wasted time protecting my online persona, the more I had to examine and better understand why I was trying to create an online persona in the first place. In truth, I had to take a good look at my own ego, online and off.
Why am I so focused on the crafting of this online identity? Because, creating an online identity is another chance to recreate myself. Isn’t this what everyone does when they get on social media, try to hit the cosmic do-over button and redefine how they are seen by the world?
(This inner desire to upgrade isn’t a new phenomenon. Going to college was my first real chance to create a new brand for myself. I wasn’t going to be the D&D geek from high school. I was going to be a hipper, cooler version of myself. So I wore a hat. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work.)
Online, I’m still trying to create a better version of myself. Someone people will like more. Someone who will captivate, charm and dazzle important people. In my ideal scenario, my online brand is an equal mix Don Draper and Jon Stewart. Therefore, any online activity, including music choices, must reflect my online suave - sophisticated - witty - social commentor brand.
But when I step back, I realize my actual online persona is how I act when I’m at a social event with people I’m trying to impress. I’m not being fake, but I’m a little too loud, a little too fast with a joke, and a little too obvious when scanning the room for VIPs. It’s a version of myself where I’m trying too hard. I’m being both Jon Stewart AND Don Draper, but not in the way I intended: I’m coming off as a neurotic guy that sometimes drinks too much. I’m failing to impress because I’m trying to be something I’m not. The problem isn’t in my methods, it’s in my need to impress.
All this effort, and what has it gotten me? Nothing but wasted time and energy. Enough. I am who I am. Listening to Rihanna on Spotify might be off-brand for my online identity – so it’s time to realign my online brand, bringing it as close to the truth as possible. The truth is I listened to the Glee Christmas album on Spotify. I LIKED the Glee Christmas album. I REALLY LIKED the Michael Bublé Christmas album. That’s who I am – online and off. Filtering the truth is hiding the truth, and I’m done hiding. From now on, I'm crafting the most powerful online persona I can: a true reflection of the real me.
So here's how I’ve solved my Spotify problem - I'm listening to whatever the hell I want to listen to, and let my pre-teen-music-choice flag fly on Facebook.
If you’re on Spotify, click the icon on the left to play what I’ve been listening to while I write this. If my Facebook friends want to mock me, well, at least they're talking about me. The real me.
Hopefully, being the real me will be the most engaging me. Come on, let’s all get real. What are you not sharing online???