Dear Musician, do you suffer from social media music anxiety??
I’ve just finished practising some chromatic patterns that are really challenging me, but I’m glad that I’m finally getting to grips with them. That last hour of practice has just flown by and it’s getting late so I decide to stop for the evening. Almost as subconsciously, I reach for my phone and immediately open Instagram. I hardly have to look at my phone to access any social media apps these days; if only my fingers could navigate scales and arpeggios in the same way! I scroll down and I see that one of my friends has posted a video of them playing their piano. I unmute the video and smile. The smile quickly turns into a look of bewilderment.
He only posted this video a couple of hours ago. I click on his username and let out a slightly audible gasp.
7209 followers! When did that happen?
I keep scrolling and see a great professional shot of another musician friend taken at one of her recent concerts.
492 likes. 16 comments.
A few profiles later and another friend of mine has posted a picture of himself in LA, about to perform at an international festival.
883 likes. 27 comments.
I check the last picture I posted of myself.
85 likes. 2 comments. 1 is spam.
I turn my phone over in disgust. When will I get more followers? When will my videos get more comments and views? When will I get that endorsement deal? Am I not good enough? Not good looking enough? Not friends with the right people? Wrong instrument? Maybe I should just give up.
Experts have suggested that almost 20% of people on social media go no longer than 3 hours before checking various accounts. It’s so easy to look at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms and instantly compare ourselves to other musicians. Those who appear to be consistently on tour, consistently gigging, consistently uploading pictures in great venues with great artists. They get their random musings retweeted, funny videos shared and seem to be supported by many organisations.
If those things aren’t happening for you, it’s easy to feel that these posts are taunting you, reminding you of all the things you don’t have. The awards you didn't win. The artists you could have performed with. If only you had paid more attention in music classes. If only you were a different gender. If only the clothes you wore were more revealing…
I think it’s important that we talk about how social media affects us as musicians. Seeing what other musicians post can stop us from sharing moments from our own musical journeys, only because we feel that our pictures or videos don’t look or sound as good as other people’s. It’s important to remember that there will always be people interested in what you do and who you are, on or off social media. Just imagine if Miles Davis had seen a post from Dizzy Gillespie and decided to never record an album? Or if Adele decided that Aretha Franklin’s music and legacy meant that no-one would care about what she had to say through her music?
The fact is, we often have no idea about what goes on behind the scenes in other people’s lives. We have to be careful not to see other people's posts and use that to start telling ourselves how talentless, unattractive or boring we think we are. You are as unique and special in your own right just like they are. Like Jill Scott once said of Erykah Badu, ‘We all have our own thing, that’s the magic. Everybody comes with their own sense of strength and their own Queendom. Mine could never compare to her’s, and her’s could never compare to mine’. Even though someone else may have a larger following, more gigs or an endorsement, it doesn’t mean that you never will. It doesn't mean that the person is deliriously happy with their lives or even that their sense of self-worth is dependent on the likes they receive either. Their journey is their journey. Yours is yours. Express yourself knowing, as the jazz standard says, There Will Never Be Another You.
It’s also important to remember that you are not just a musician! You may be a brother, sister, aunty, parent, bookworm, gamer, writer or a foodie! Being a musician is only a percentage of the things you do, and is in no way an indication of who you are as a person. People will rarely share every aspect of themselves online and if you try to compare your whole self to the small percentage that others share about themselves, no wonder you can end up feeling as though you aren’t enough. As much as you can, try to separate what you do from who you are, even if it means spending less time looking at what others care about, and spending more time on what you care about.
If you feel any of the emotions I’ve written about in this post, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to the people around you and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how many people have had similar thoughts to you. If you need to take a break from Instagram or Twitter then do it - it’ll be waiting for you when you get back. As much as I think (and know) that social media can be a powerful tool to help you learn and grow, it’s increasingly important to understand how you feel in relation to it. No matter what, don’t let other people’s pictures or videos stop you from sharing your practising, your gigs or your music.
You never know who you might inspire.
And I guarantee there is someone looking at your profile who wishes they could be like you!
So be you.