So I’m listening to a new CD right now by a band I absolutely love and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The thing is, it’s not “out” yet, meaning the band has not officially released the disk to the public. You can pre-order it (which I’ve actually done, BTW), but I still technically have this music illegally. The release date remains in the future.
Interestingly, I’m finding myself experiencing a tension around having and enjoying this music before I’m “Supposed” to — a tension I wouldn’t have felt several months ago. What changed? Twitter.
Because I use Twitter as part of my daily internet life, it’s now quite natural for me to type something like “Loving the new album from -insert band name here-!” Except I know that members of this band are on Twitter and I know that Google Alerts looks at Twitter, so there’s a real chance that such a tweet could make its way back to the band.
Make no mistake, I have no real fear of legal prosecution for this transgression. The tension I’m feeling is a social one. I actually don’t want this band — the members of which I respect and want to succeed, both finacially and creatively — to know that I cheated and got their album before its release date. I don’t feel all that much *moral* tension — as I said, I have already paid the band for the music — it’s a social awkwardness that is changing my behavior. I’m censoring what I say on Twitter (and in this blog post) because I’m trying to avoid ebarrassment and the possibility of this band thinking ill of me. How weird is that?
This tension did not prevent me from accepting and listening to the music, but who knows what the future will bring once we’re all totally connected and our lives are even more transparent. Maybe basic social pressure will come to bear more on these sorts of decisions as online social consequences increase with our connectivity.
Casey The Contrarian’s recent Twit-off with the Comcast Cares Twitter jockey is an interesting example of this (I wish there was a way to permalink to a specific Twitter exchange). Casey’s (very reasonable) reaction to Comcast the corporation is extremely hostile. He’s suffered greatly as a result of their poor customer service and he’s been vocal about that. Comcast (smartly) has a person (a guy named Frank Eliason — poor sap) who monitors chatter about Comcast on Twitter and reaches out on behalf of the company, trying to resolve issues and improve customer relations. It’s more difficult for someone like Casey to be openly hostile to Frank Eliason than it is for him to be openly hostile to Comcast. Comcast sucks, Frank is just the guy they hired to deal with the haters. It’s very shrewd of Comcast to put Frank’s photo and real name on the Comcast Cares Twitter profile. It’s just harder to call someone an asshole to his/her face.
With widespread commenting on blogs the conventional wisdom has been all about how anonymity and a lack of consequences turns otherwise reasonable people into trolls (The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory). I wonder if we may someday see the opposite effect take hold — where all of this real time, searchable connectivity with real people will result in a new set of social norms where people online find themsleves shamed into being polite with each other — even occasionally choosing to purchase media rather than steal it.