I suppose it's a natural oddity of social media and the wider internet - the focus on the quick 'share' the quick 'tweet' or the quick 'like'. But is it just me that is desperate for more new CONTENT? New ideas, new opinions rather than just quick fixes? When it comes to the ukulele community I certainly am.
Don't get me wrong - the beauty of social media these days is built on the ease of 'sharing' stuff. It's become the backbone of a big part of it. The ease of anyone to see something for a fleeting moment, giggle, and then click 'like' or 'share' so they immediately feel part of a club or group... like they now 'belong'. I do it myself, and it makes me smile quite often. But something I have noticed in the interest group that this website belongs to (the ukulele) is a drive toward that kind of content being the 'norm' with actual real content becoming lost in the noise. I don't mean individuals using social media for the way it was intended - I mean the websites and bands who seem to be using it as a replacement for actual content.
In the last few years I have noticed a significant increase in this. Whether they are Facebook ukulele pages with 'like counts' that are growing exponentially, posts on voting sites that get more 'up votes' than anything else or Tweets that are being 'retweeted' more than anything else - the ones that fit that description share one thing more often than not. They are not actually sharing anything at all. It's content in the most basic sense (a 'funny' picture or quote) but it's all been shared before. Bands are starting to fill their Facebook pages, not with footage of the band itself, but with the same memes knowing that they will generate 'likes'. Surely we don't need any more memes that rehash the same old same old 'you need more ukuleles' or 'they ukulele is magical' theme?
What I mean is.. there is actually very little real fresh content that helps the reader beyond that short and transient quick 'meme'. An awful lot of pages now that seem to thrive on sharing pictures of animals / sad looking children / hipsters with beards on beaches or surfboards / inspiring landscapes / old time pictures of music hall artistes who never expected to appear in a meme / random photographs of instruments / pictures of teddies with ukuleles thrust into their mitts / and so on... all complete with a hollow 'inspirational' quote about how the ukulele is 'happy/ funny / all you need' and the like typed in a 'kooky' font. Those are the 'memes'. You've all seen them. You've probably shared them.
And if it isn't the memes, it's the growing habit of sharing Amazon review scores to create some sort of faux review page for instruments. In other words, pages that say 'my advice on what ukulele to buy is based on a bunch of reviews from strangers on Amazon'. We can read Amazon for that...
Of course people are absolutely right to share and post whatever they like, and they readers are free to like / retweet / up vote whatever they like too. That's fine. The majority wins of course. But when pages and bands are using that tactic as the main source of content to garner likes, what is going on here?
It's well known that many groups, such as financial scammers are using sites like Facebook to 'farm' 'likes' in order to sell such pages on for profit (a gathering of contact details from hundreds of saps who click on those ' share this when you spot the letter C' or 'what is the first word you saw', or the 'What Disney Princess are you?' posts.) They are all devices to generate 'likes' that can then be traded on. But I actually don't think that is what is happening in ukulele circles at all.
I see ukulele pages, clubs and bands that do this who appear to have genuine aspirations for building their names in the community and from whom I get no sense that selling a page on for a profit has ever occurred to them or is part of their plan. They are merely on the drive for 'likes'. And actually, I suppose there is nothing wrong with that either I guess, assuming you are not using likes for some evil plan we don't know about... Likes on pages mean that posts on pages are more likely to appear on other peoples timelines. Run a page with no likes, you may as well be shouting your content into an empty field - nobody is listening. But to choose to gain that popularity by using lowest common denominator stuff seems to be missing an opportunity to create something that really makes people think or is really helpful. Surely? And with bands - what do you want to see on a band page? Content of the band (music, videos etc) or generic memes about rainbows and ukuleles? Why not try and build the fanbase with actual content?
But this is all avoiding my real point. If you are like me, you enjoy NEW content on the internet that relates to your interest. I WANT to read more stuff, opinions, reviews, interviews, ideas, tips, lessons, you name it connected to the ukulele. I WANT to see new bands and in particular I want to see and hear their performances. I want to be challenged with new ideas. I want to see differing ideas about things I have written about - different perspectives. Yet, the sad fact is, that with only a small number of exceptions, those getting the BIG likes are sharing nothing more than generic, meaningless (and most importantly) unhelpful stuff. What's worse is that I see that sites where people are actually going to the trouble of actually trying to write and create interesting new content, when I can see they have spent hours on writing an article, are not getting the same responses as the lazier site who merely shared a picture of a unicorn with a ukulele on it's back replete with an inspirational quote. The limited content out there is not getting through. Is that just a case of 'tough cheese'? Perhaps, and sad if it is.
Are readers lazy? Do readers not have enough time? Are readers not interested in anything other than the meaningless and quick? Are the true content writers actually not of any interest? I actually don't think any of those things are really true, but it can appear that way. I've certainly considered hanging up my keyboard on this site on many occasions. But I keep going because I think readers are always desperate for new and interesting information on the internet, but most are getting no further than the 'quick fix' of the tepid and meaningless in the fast world we now live in. And it concerns me where that will end.
Hang on Barry - this is clearly a push for your own site? Well in part, yes, I suppose so, but only insofar as I genuinely think that I don't share stuff on here willy nilly that doesn't have a lot work behind it. But I am not the only one. The point of the post (if you have read this far..) is to actually champion the sites that ARE actually writing stuff that I think is helpful and relevant. In other words, it's not just me trying to do this.
Most readers of Got A Ukulele will know the daddy of ukulele websites in the form of Ukulele Hunt. Al Wood continues to drive that site forward - always original, always useful and never pointless or trite. But what of newer sites? One that immediately springs to mind is the work of Lesley Fowkes at 'Life's A Ukafrolic'. I wouldn't say it's a daily blog (nor is it actually that new, but new compared to Ukulele Hunt I guess). What I like about Lesley's site is the passion that comes through in every post she writes. This is a very personal site from someone who clearly loves what and who she writes about. It's always well thought out and never takes the simple cheap option. You know that what she is putting on her pages she has thought about and whether you agree with it or not, that it comes from the heart. That sort of site should be championed I say. Another fairly recent newcomer is the work of Dave at 'Ukulele Go' - one of the few sites that has prompted me to actually bookmark them in recent years. It's great to see another take on artists and instruments and he has created some great beginner posts as he shares his development with the ukulele and his desire to help others. Simon Taylors 'Cool Cat Ukes' also springs to mind (some great reviews and interviews, just wish he would do more) and Tim Szerlongs Ukeeku (a site that persuaded me to get into doing instrument reviews) also fits the bill as a page with genuine content.
Of course there are probably others, and if they are absent in my mentions here I am afraid that is probably more likely to do with them being lost behind the noise of the meaningless that pervades social media channels. Please, don't be offended.
If, on the other hand, you enjoy sharing pictures of kittens with ukuleles please continue to do so. It can be fun I guess, and it makes the world go around. If you are not a website writer or band, absolutely you should have fun with these things and this post isn't suggesting that you stop that. Providers of content though? Ask yourselves this... What if that was all there was? What if all those giving up their time writing about artists, instruments, teaching and the instrument in general just stopped tomorrow? What if the only thing that was left were memes of sunsets, kittens and people on boats in lakes with ukuleles coupled with a quote that doesn't really mean anything? What if nobody was actually sharing an opinion about anything save for copied and pasted Amazon instrument reviews and a general assumption that everything in ukulele land is wonderful? No thanks.
Surely the majority of us want more than that?
Support real content. This stuff takes time. And at times it can be sorely tempting to give this all up and leave the ukulele channels to the meaningless.
IF you enjoyed this article - be sure to read the rest of my Ukulele Rants here!
© Barry Maz