Over on Facebook, I’m a member of an entertaining and generally pretty neat music discussion group. The format is pretty simple: we just post what we’re listening to at any given time, and each post forms a thread where people chip in and talk about the records. Generally speaking, this is both great fun and intriguing: you learn a lot about the music, but also about your fellow list members – their preferences, their own stories about how they connected to the music and why that connection was made, along with any number of stories about accompanying gigs, how the bands/musicians impacted their lives and suchlike. In other words, generally it’s a very positive experience that leads all of us who frequent the page to spend vast amounts on new musical discoveries, and pick up long-forgotten favourites again.
However, sometimes it’s not entirely positive. There are times when someone posts something and it is immediately met with scorn or derision by other members. “Oh jeez, you don’t listen to this crap, do you?” – you know the sort of thing. Now, at the end of the day the group page in question is a community discussion page, where people need to be able to post their opinions. This is the nature of such groups, and I’ve been a member of these sort of groups since the first week I was online, back in 1997, so it’s not a surprise to me that that’s how it works. It could be argued (successfully) that that’s the whole reason the group is there in the first place. So why does the negativity get me down?
The short answer is because sometimes I get sucked into it myself, and I hate myself for being so weak. Recently someone posted that they were playing Coldplay‘s Ghost Stories. Now I don’t mind Coldplay; I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan by any means, but I own a few of their albums and usually take the time to listen to any new music they release. I tried Ghost Stories and couldn’t get on with it at all. I just found incredibly disappointing. I won’t rant on about it, though: some of my friends really enjoy it and get a lot out of it, and I know some folks think it’s one of their best records for some time, so who am I to rubbish it just because it doesn’t do anything for me? And yet, on that fateful day, I joined the thread just to dismiss it. I posted in the thread, sat back, and immediately felt… I don’t know… diminished.
This might sound odd coming from someone who reviews music in his spare time, this reticence to share an opinion; but it’s all to do with time and place. When I write a review, good or bad, it’s because I am being asked for my opinion – by the musicians, their label, my Editor, the people who read it… a multitude of people. When I post in the discussion group I mentioned above, though, no-one’s asking me for my opinion on what they’re listening to. So why do I feel obliged to waste my time, and the time of those who read what I’ve written, saying something doesn’t appeal to me? At the end of the day, it achieves nothing – my opinion doesn’t change, the listener’s opinion doesn’t change, the music remains unchanged. There’s no benefit from writing what I have written; it’s just dead pixels – in fact, it may even annoy or irritate people who do really enjoy it. The vernacular for this sort of activity is “thread pissing”: stepping into what might otherwise be a positive, enjoyable sharing of something purely to dismiss it. Surely, it’s at times like this that my gran’s sage advice that “if you can’t say anything nice, why bother saying anything at all?” is entirely appropriate.
It’s happened again today. Someone posted that they were listening to an album I really enjoy, and someone followed it up with “bleeeuurgh”. Just that, nothing else – no rationale for not liking the record. What has that achieved? Nothing. I suppose I could just take the attitude that I should feel bad for that person, who can’t enjoy a great album that means a lot to some folks. But instead, I just feel annoyed at the fact that some people just can’t be happy for other people and feel obliged to belittle the stuff they enjoy that means so much to them.
So from hereon in, I’m going to attempt to take the path of the better angels of my nature and just avoid threads dedicated to stuff I don’t like. Life’s too short, innit? And faced with so much that it’s worth me enthusing about, why should I waste my time and energy on the stuff that does nothing for me?
Except for Meghan bloody Trainor, that is. Well, there’s no excuse for that, now, is there? 😉