It is a sign of the times, I suppose, that within the first ten minutes after I came home last night from Mediapost's OMMA Global, the discussion between my 13-year-old son and I was the following: Should he click on the button served to him on Spotify that would have published every song he listened to on Facebook?
The answer, as far as both us was concerned -- and without parental prodding -- was no!
For once, it's OK that my son doesn't want to share.
Before I continue, let me explain how our use of Spotify differs from that of the average person. When I first set up my account in August, I was immediately taken with it, and am listening to a live version of Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" on it as I type (oops! inadvertent sharing!).
I showed it to my son, who has since spent quality time, every day, on Spotify, building an impressive play list, and, to my great delight, checking out some of the old-school artists that I've put on playlists. I like to think that when he walked partway down the hill last night to meet me on the way back from the train station, it was because he missed me... but I really think he was after my laptop. Yes, people! We're hooked!
But we also share an account, which, at one point, was a byproduct of Spotify being a little stingy with the invites. Now, it has an additional benefit: it obviates the need for him to have a Facebook account. You see, in the flurry of announcements about Facebook and content-sharing and Spotify, you may have missed the news that now it's a requirement that Spotify users have a Facebook account (not that they have to share what they're listening to). You can call me the Social Media Insider all you want, but forgive me for still being leery of putting my 13-year-old on Facebook. It's been a relief that, to date, he's shown zero interest in it, but Spotify might have just changed all that. Which sucks.
About a month ago, I wrote a column extolling the social media subtlety of Spotify; it was a great example of how social is simply baked into so many services. This move, obviously, is anything but subtle. Being able to share things is great -- if you want to. But requiring people to join Facebook so they can listen to music? That's just not right, even if you block sharing.
During the closing social track panel yesterday at OMMA Global, Clearspring CEO Hooman Radfar pointed out that Facebook has gone from a platform in which users had to input data upon which they are targeted, into one where the service essentially allows you to live your life, while much of what happens in and around your profile is done without you overtly acting at all.
I may have just made the mistake of paraphrasing him incorrectly, but I think Radfar's intent was to point out how sharing information about yourself online is increasingly automated, almost passive. If my son had clicked on the "Allow" button that's what would have happened. From then on, until we took action, my News Feed would have been peppered with more sharing than either of us wanted (and no, I doubt my son's temerity over sharing his music had to do with how it might pollute my News Feed).
Having the world know that you secretly think John Denver is the greatest artist of the 20th century isn't up there with having your Social Security number published. However, this philosophy that sharing is always humanity's default state gets it wrong. While I think the viral capabilities of Facebook and Spotify could be great for the music industry, being part of the viral action should be something you can do, not something that the platforms involved assume that you'll do.