When you listen to Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” there is just something a little too life-affirming, a little too infectious about the iconic ode to Duke Ellington not to share it. When you listen to “Sir Duke,” the world feels like a Nutrageous commercial, the sun shines a little brighter, you imagine confetti popping out of orifices it shouldn’t. And so, in the year 2014, my gut instinct, and I’d wager yours, is to post a YouTube video immediately to Facebook, with a preview of the song, obviously (see below). A few friends who like the tune may “like” my status, but when all is said and done, I know nobody will actually click “play” on the song and join in on my Thursday morning Sir Duking.
Facebook understands this instinct to share what you’re listening to despite it being poor form and inherently really, really boring. It was announced this week that Facebook will be rolling out their most Big Brothery feature yet — an app that will tap into your phone’s mic, discern what movie or music you’re listening to, and automatically add a mention of it to the end of your status updates. Expect statuses to soon read: “Made homemade mac ‘n cheese! — Listening to Collective Soul.” Why are you listening to Collective Soul? What kind of pasta did you use? These are unanswered questions, but Facebook hopes to tap into the human psyche just a little bit more by culling what media you are consuming while you just happen to be on the platform, which is always.
The new feature has already won the ire of many, with a petition going around that has already gained over 562,000 signatures. The reason behind such an extreme backlash is that people fear that Facebook will start Shazaming our lives, recording conversations we have while using the app. Though Facebook protests that it won’t be listening in, it’s hard not to think this feature isn’t just adding minutiae to minutiae.
Part of this is undoubtedly because of Facebook’s partnership with Spotify, but another part is because if we’re sharing what movie we’re watching, our favorite TV show, and the best new album on Facebook, they’ll have even more to advertise against. It’s also because, for whatever reason, we just love displaying what we’re listening to, even if nobody gets in on the listening. It’s like those Vines of people’s TV screens: nobody’s watching, but we will now all know what you’re watching. I asked a friend who posts YouTube videos to Facebook at least once a week (no judgment) why she does it. “Generally I share songs based on my mood, or to share something that really moved me (as is the case with Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church.’ I know that probably three people listen to it, but if I’m really happy or sad or something moves me enough share, then I do,” she explains.
Maybe the curious trend toward music-sharing on Facebook — spitting out Michael Jackson into the void — is because music has and always will be a reflection of our moods and personalities. So maybe Facebook has taken another step closer to Orwell, but the social media behemoth also understands the collective urge to share music even when there is no audience. It moves us.