Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How Spotify became us

More than just our music taste, Spotify Wrapped is another piece in the puzzle of how we view self-identity
Mormondancer on Flickr

The start of December marks the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is right around the corner, Hanukkah is about to enter in full swing and the most important celebration of them all awaits: Spotify Wrapped.

This year-end recap breaks down users’ listening habits into fun illustrations and clever wording. It packages data into pretty slides that allow users to know what their top song and artist of the year was, what genres they’ve listened to most and even assigned a “Sound Town” this year. I learned that I have similar streaming tastes to many others in Burlington. What started as a marketing strategy has evolved into a massive contemporary festivity that feels inescapable.

Every year, social media turns into a madhouse dedicated to posting reviews of Spotify’s curated algorithm. This madness permeates our everyday lives. As the stats dropped on the 29th, a constant discussion took place with my classmates, my roommates and everyone I came across. We compared and contrasted the differences in the minutes we listened to, as well as what our listening styles were. Everywhere you scrolled, endless memes popped up poking fun at the ludicrous nature of this viral tradition.

Ultimately, this walk down memory lane is appealing because of how easy it is to digest. Our consistent listening is distilled into a neat little story–a digital capsule of our guilty pleasure playlists and the art we consume. We love the insight it provides into ourselves. We often turn to music because of the universality it provides; the solace it provides is coherent with the human need to build connections to a larger community. But this annual snapshot introduces a sense of hyperawareness of how other people perceive us through the music we listen to.

What started out as a fun campaign has contributed to the negative cycle of insecurity that social media already ingrains in us. When we’re not proud of our top 100 songs, we end up viewing music as a tool to manipulate how people view our personalities. A sense of competition develops between users, where we feel we need to one-up each other in the number of minutes we listen to year-round. The pervasive fear of missing out drives us to endlessly consume more and more, contributing to the consumerization of culture.

Wrapped is curated for you to personally enjoy. However, the second this is released into the cultural zeitgeist, Instagram Stories are predictably flooded with an endless array of content dedicated to everyone’s musical data. In the age of performative social media, Spotify Wrapped is just another no-risk way to share a heavily curated insight into your personality. How we listen to music has become heavily artificial; we don’t want people to view our identities in a distorted way, so we pick and choose the music we listen to. The music we listen to is an extension of our identity, yet when we open up the platform to allow people to judge our taste, we feel the need to improve our uniqueness as a way to feign an idea of “cool.”

This paradox of self-reflection is intertwined with the feeling of inadequacy that our overdependence on social media has caused us to internalize. We define ourselves by arbitrary things, like music, to project a certain image of our personalities. Before we press “share,” we don’t prioritize how accurate a post is to our real quirks and habits. Instead, this extension of our identity becomes something we emphasize not just in our relationship with others, but also with our own sense of self. A single screenshot can turn into an obsession with how we specifically convey our personality.

As complex human beings, we are not simply the neat little images that others carry of us in their heads. The way we scheme and overthink everything we post online isn’t accurate to how we would communicate offline. Spotify Wrapped is similar to a personality test; we seek these analytics to validate our self-concept, placing too much stock in a concept that used to be something we turned to for comfort. This extension of our identity falls into the vicious pattern of validation that we acquire from how followers may view us.

Whether we choose to post our Wrapped is another longstanding act of curation. And if the Wrapped isn’t ideal, only one thought remains while posting, “maybe next year’s Rewind will be better.”

Tyvla Abidin can be reached at [email protected].

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