Following on from her well-received post “Am I Really Good Enough“, guest author Frances Wilson turns her focus to the impact that social media can have on our view of ourselves…
Help or Hindrance?
In my previous article I wrote about strategies to cope with feelings of inadequacy as a musician and the oft-posed question, Am I Really Good Enough? In this article I will examine how social media can help and hinder those same feelings of inadequacy.
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and many, many more platforms) is very hard to ignore these days, and unless one takes very deliberate steps not to engage with it at all, one has to accept it as a fact of modern life.
It has its uses: on a most basic level, it’s a means for people to stay in touch. It can connect like-minded people and offers opportunities to forge new partnerships, collaborations and communities, both professionally and socially.
For a musician, used well it can be an incredibly powerful tool (see my article on Classical musicians and social media). On social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, one can connect easily and simply with many other musicians, music teachers and others in the music profession, and the accessibility and immediacy of these platforms allow ideas to be bounced around and shared very quickly, creating interesting and stimulating discussions.
Social media can also offer useful support for one’s practising – read more here
One of the criticisms which is often levelled at social media platforms such as Facebook (in particular) is that some people use them as a way of parading their seemingly perfect or highly successful lives before others.
Alongside one’s personal profile, there are groups which one can join for shared interests – and there is a plethora of piano-related groups. Such groups can be a great way of connecting with like-minded people and offer many benefits such as support for technical issues within specific repertoire, advice on setting up a piano teaching practice, musicians’ health or venue hire, to name but a few. But sometimes observing what others are doing, or constantly comparing oneself to others is not the best way to assess one’s abilities, progress and development.
There may be a tendency too for certain individuals to criticise others, or be overly didactic in their posts or comments, and in the curious artificial world of the Internet, comments that might be shrugged off or refuted face to face, can seem negative or hurtful online.
Then there are the people who endlessly advertise students’ exam successes or seek endorsement from group members for their own achievements. Such parading of egos or desire for mutual appreciation or praise can make others feel inadequate. Sometimes it feels as if people are all over the networks are shouting “look at me!” and “look at my brilliant career, isn’t it wonderful?”
Social media puts us in touch with many other very competent people and it is all too easy to become intimidated or feel pressurised or depressed by what others are doing.
A positive way of dealing with this is to accept that there are many talented people within our profession and to be happy to be amongst such a pool of musically accomplished individuals.
Many however cite the benefits of social media in relieving the feelings of isolation that often accompany the musician’s life :
“I have found social media to be extremely beneficial as someone who has returned to the piano recently after illness. I have connected with many extremely stimulating and experienced musicians and reconnected with old friends as a result. Practising the piano can be a somewhat solitary affair so it has been a great blessing to find like-minded people to chat with during a practise session. There is always someone to turn to who can advise on fingering or other questions of technique…. ” (FW)
“I feel encouraged when I read about or correspond with other amateur pianists who are serious about the piano while having non-piano day jobs.” (PC)
If you find the “noise” of social media too distracting or detrimental, turn it off. Make a conscious decision to limit your engagement with it, or allot a time slot during the day when you check in and then go back to work.
Sometimes someone will post a link or start a discussion thread which is helpful or stimulating: take from it what you think will be useful to you, otherwise step back from all the chatter.
Be confident in your own abilities and accept that there is no “right way”, that there may be many different approaches to the same issue.
Ultimately, we have to get our vanities, anxieties and preconceptions out of the way and just get on with our work.
Frances Wilson is a London-based pianist, piano teacher, concert reviewer and blogger on music and pianism as The Cross-Eyed Pianist. She also writes a regular column on various aspects of piano playing for ‘Pianist’ magazine’s e-newsletter, and is a guest blogger at HelloStage, InterludeHK, Music Haven and The Sampler, the blog of SoundandMusic.org, the UK charity for new music.
Frances holds Licentiate and Associate Diplomas (both with distinction) in Performance, and currently studies with acclaimed pianist, teacher and writer Graham Fitch.