Chris JonesThis will be a two-part series on the use of social media by bluegrass artists and business people. The second part may be just one long rant.

Those of us who are attempting to make a full or part-time living in this business have been forced into a life of perpetual on line self-promotion. Even the most technology-resistant among us have had to accept this fact.

I hate to say this, but it’s just another case of technology running us instead of the other way around. Think of the number of technological advances, from the cell phone to the tractor, that were fine when not everybody had them and it wasn’t expected that you would have one. Once these things become commonplace, the convenience they once promised is gone, and you’re just living by a new standard in which you have to do a whole lot more instantaneous communicating in the now endless workday, or you have to plough up thousands more acres to pay for your equipment and fuel (talking on your cell phone while you’re doing it).

Okay maybe part one is a rant too.

So it is with social media. It seemed like such a good idea: if you’re a musician or band leader in the public eye, you can quickly build a network of fans or friends, then just as quickly keep them informed of your professional activities (presented in the most upbeat and optimistic light of course, regardless of the reality). Great. It sure beat the maintenance of the email list, or worse, the maintenance of a physical mailing list and the expense of actually sending out mail.

It wasn’t long, though, before it became necessary for everyone in the business to have a Facebook page and/or Twitter account, not to mention Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, Candygram, CrackerGraham, and Yo! If you didn’t have the time or computer savvy to set these up yourself, you then had to hire someone to do that for you.

That’s all fine, but then you have to use these services as constantly as possible, posting things like, “We really rocked the house last night in Madison! I’m so glad to be part of this incredible band! #LivingTheLife” Do you see what just happened? You just bragged about your performance and referred to your own band as “incredible.” Without realizing it, the most unassuming and mild-mannered of artists have become like Muhammed Ali, without the footwork or the left jab to back it up. If you walked up to someone in a bar you just played a :45 minute set in, and said “Wow! What a show! We killed it tonight!” That person would give you a slightly pained look and try to make a quick exit. Yet, in the social media environment, this kind of statement is accepted as normal. Anything less, and you’re considered to have no professional self-confidence.

It isn’t just up-and-comers and starving artists forced into doing this either. Some of the world’s biggest celebrities feel an obligation to tweet professional news, or their opinions about everything from the Ukraine situation to the clothing choices of their fellow celebrities. Then they have to tweet their apologies for their previous impulsive tweets about the above. Why are they doing that, when they had previously spent a lot of energy hiding from unwanted public attention (or at least appearing to be hiding from it)? The answer is that, like us, they feel they have to because all of their peers are. If everyone else quit, they would quit too.

Now, not to dwell entirely on the negative, social media sites like Facebook have many good points. They connect us with people around the world who would otherwise be very expensive to visit, they’ve reunited us with old school friends, some of whom never spoke to us at school, but who now seem perfectly nice. And, how else would we ever get to see that many pictures of cats wearing suspenders?

It should also be said that social media sites may be responsible for the dropping unemployment rate. Because of the amount of time wasted in office work environments posting those cat pictures or engaging in bitter political arguments about gun control, it now takes five people to do the work of one, which has led to a hiring boom. Let’s go ahead and credit them with the economic recovery.

Next week: why we all now hate Facebook, even while checking it twenty times a day.

If you enjoyed this, please share on your favorite social media sites below, and come on out and see us at Bloomin’ BBQ and Bluegrass a week from Saturday. We’ll be telling you afterwards how amazing we were. #ShamelessPlug