It’s pretty easy to understand the purpose of the recent viral Facebook poll, “100 Influential Albums” from the perspective of the creator. The quiz has links to buy all of those listed through Amazon, and the data mining of personal information is a goldmine. But the motivation behind those taking the quiz to me is much more telling.
These sorts of quizzes and polls are becoming increasingly popular on the social networks as the sheer numbers of people willing to share just about anything about themselves publicly becomes a virus of its own. But why are we so drawn to these public displays of hipness?
Many I imagine do so merely out of curiosity. Wanting to know what these records are and whether we may have missed something that we “should have”, thus filling in an empty spot in our own cultural landscape. But one could find countless other lists that could help one accomplish this. Rolling Stone has it’s 500 Best Recordings of All Time, as does NME with theirs, “100 Best Albums Of All Time” How about 100 Best Lists of 100 Best Albums of All Time? Google that, I haven’t the time.
I believe that these polls work because of our need to be hipper than others. In the social world of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp where we share every last sound, bite and image that we experience, the only thing that makes us feel like an individual is doing, hearing seeing or tasting something that no one else (or any of our friends) have. The fact that I may own even 20 out of these 100 should make me feel better, because that’s better than 45% of others who have taken the poll. These numbers matter. To know that having only 1/5th of these recordings puts me above 45% of others? That’s validation. Imagine how good one could feel if they had say 60 or 70 percent of these? So maybe the tendency would be to work the numbers. I mean who “owns” records anymore? Sure I have heard and once owned “Trout Mask Replica“, but with music streaming services like MOG and Spotify amongst others, we can all “own” them all, or more accurately own none of them.
But boasting your personal numbers is not enough reason for many. No, the hipness level continues to rise above your percentile score, when you shout from your social mountain top that the list itself sucks. How on earth can “Clap Your Hands Say Yah” be on this list when there’s no mention of Charles Mingus’s, “Ah Uhm“? No metal bands? C’mon. No Sgt. Peppers? I am hipper than the list itself.
Did I take the quiz? Yes. Did I agree with the list? Some of it. How did I do? Well show me yours and I’ll show you mine. At least I won’t try and sell you something.