Social media is a contemptible scourge on society — a for-profit cancer feeding off our collective narcissism and thirst for public approval, eviscerating privacy and delegitimizing truth itself as it metastasizes through the lifeblood of public discourse. It’s also entertaining, informative, and my go-to source for basketball highlights and cool videos about space. As with all endeavors great and small, the bass enjoys its own vibrant social media ecosystem, and while my age and personal proclivities seem to get in the way of my being a notable participant in it, I’m also no dilletante. I lurk, I scroll, I see what you kids are up to! And while there are many bass-related social media phenomena that inspire and amaze me (I’m looking at you, Adam Neely), there’s also a lot that confuses, discourages, and otherwise negatively activates me.
As social media become a ubiquitous feature of modern life, I’ve noticed that many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues have decided to reconsider their relationship to social media. Some have quit it outright; others limit their use to just one social network; some schedule a limited period of time each day or week. I’m in the midst of my own simmering sense that something in my use needs to change, but I’m not sure what.
Social media has a lot of costs, but to me, the biggest is that it’s superfood for an inferiority complex. Humans are social creatures, and playing music is a social exercise — otherwise we’d all be satisfied ’shedding alone at home for our whole lives. Social media toys with our native compulsion to analyze our place in the social order. Each of us active in a music scene knows well the nagging pull of insecurity, the ongoing quest to ensure we rank highly in the hierarchy of esteem among our fellow musicians. Rather than deny this inexorable truth, we hopefully learn to leverage it as a motivational tool. Healthy competition, even when it’s private and informal, is one of many ways to push through challenges and stay focused. Social media can hijack this instinct, though, overwhelming the balance we strike between productive insecurity and crippling self-doubt.
I’m not the first to say this, obviously, but it bears repeating: for most people, social media is a personal highlight reel. We all know those people that tediously overshare their life’s every detail, but most of us spend our social capital carefully, publicly revealing what we consider our best stuff. In this way, social media is an illusion. But it’s an illusion with real impact. As much as we know that it’s not a full picture, we can’t help but sometimes look at the exploits of our musical associates with envy and pique. This distorted picture of the musical landscape can corrupt our self-image, and the attendant discouragement, resentment, and depression has impactful consequences on our musical lives.
While social media can be corrosive, it’s also obviously a transformational tool for self-promotion, education, and community building. It’s for these reasons that I think many musicians feel obligated to be involved in it somehow, despite its many costs. How, then, can we capitalize on its profound power while blocking its darker implications? I’m trying to figure that out, but I need help (as I’m sure we all do). Email me at with your thoughts on how to make social media a healthy and productive part of your musical life; I’ll include some of the best ideas in an upcoming installment.
Bass Magazine contributing editor Jonathan Herrera is Bass Player’s former Editor-in-Chief. An accomplished player, Jonathan has been a full-time musician and producer since first leaving the magazine’s staff in 2010. His latest endeavor is Bay Area recording studio Dime Studios. Catch up with him at jonherrera.com and at thedimestudios.com.