When I first signed up for Spotify, I did so in that non-committal fickle internet way, simply to frivolously poke around. Out of laziness, or some might say passive coercion, I signed in with Facebook instead of actively signing up for an account. As Facebook’s tendrils grip us deeper and deeper from within, we may imagine its metastasis dense like marble. When one is singed into Facebook, our computer — whose unblinking sentience seems to replace the God we wish was — releases our autonomy as all accounts become one. In a world of redundant accounts and passwords, though, it is often easier simply to concede to this seemingly benign thing. After all, how consequential can the idle life be?
Sold, even excited, a faint smile as I nodded, I laid down my credit card number, the pin number of desire, and officially committed to its perennial extraction of $9.99 per month for a Premium account. It is sad how we exert our identities in this way, how reduced we’ve been, but I don’t make up the rules, only bow to them. I gazed into my dim future and saw little $9.99s disappear into the void. When a lot of people lose a little money, a few make a lot, and I’m not one to argue. Enthralled, feeling almost young again, I immediately played — via the iPhone app for which I paid the extra five dollars — a song indicative of my ingratiating yet prosaic “alternative” taste in music. You could say for four minutes, I was happy.
Technology looping in my condo, ears plugged in and bouncing daintily with the muse, I was also at my laptop tending to the usual open tabs when I realized that the song I was currently listening to had been posted on my timeline, for all my friends to see and judge. This was no surprise: the democratic spectacle of self, its obsolescence in minutiae. I worried that this song wasn’t edgy enough; or came out, like, last year; or had been recorded by a non-ironically derivative band, perhaps too earnest; or the band was overrated, or whose debut album was the only one really worth considering, or they simply sucked. I found myself judging myself in my projection of what I feared others would do. How I despise people with my exact taste. Welcome to my sick vain world.
Jesus Christ. “[I] [am] listening to Holocene by Bon Iver on Spotify,” I think in contempt. Dour, bearded, cabin bound, Mr. Iver is the kind of guy who girls in opulent suburban homes with somewhat artistic tumblers tend to reblog in their underwear before bedtime, a cat maybe on their shin and maybe The Shins on. How did I become the type of person who listens to this kind of swooning tragic-but-not vaguely deep music? Worried that all my friends with more obscure, aggressive, or interesting taste would mentally scoff at this lush sadbro world of falsetto, I found myself actually thinking about the best song to play next which would present me as having ironic, edgy, humorous, and ultimately good taste; maybe some sexed ’70s rock, an obscure B-side, or some hipster band comprised of two coke addicts with a drum machine, or white sneaker old school rap, or disturbing intellectual jazz, or Johann mother freaking Sebastian Bach.
Okay, perhaps I took this a little to far. I feel like I’m wearing a white wig. I toggled back and forth between all tastes, various playlists titled “girl power,” “office mellow,” “fickle jams,” “earnest bro,” “metal,” “emo chill,” “emo depressed,” trying to curate my timeline for some retrospective in my head. These songs, or rather, my listening of these songs were not being “liked”; it was official, I would soon be unfriended for being a trite human with disappointing taste. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who listen to crap, and thus began my futile attempts to disable, or simply “hide” Spotify from my timeline, without actually canceling the account, which I realized — accompanied by creative explicatives shouted inside my condo — was humanly, virtually, and gravely impossible. People with power had made plans. I imagined a ream-thick contract between such two parties on a glass start-upy table in a glass conference room somewhere, their young executives playing Nerf frisby in the hallways after shaking pink spongy hands.
After a day or two of tinkering, going deep into my preferences, account surgery, I was finally able to block the listening of Spotify songs as a distinct timeline event, though it still shows up annotated in my recent activity as a small quaint line that I’ve learned to live with. You have to pick your battles. I’ve been trying to see the bright side of things, like how here lies some inadvertent collective mixtape. To play a song for me is — in our virtual world which tries so hard to extend its pulsing hands, perhaps tied to some arms even — to play that song for you. I imagine us dancing from far away, disparate time zones mashed together by two sternums, your moves so incorrect, yet touching. We learned to dance by the same videos, the same top twenty countdowns, the same childish quest for grownup love. The awkward hands of junior prom is the grip of forever. Wow, this song isn’t really all that good, but just might be the perfect thing between us.