I started posting my new comic to Instagram this week. Browsing my feed, it consisted of memes. I couldn’t find my friends or other accounts I follow. It was nothing but meme accounts. And I wasn’t sure why I was being shown most of this until I noticed that friends had liked some of the posts. Instagram must have figured since they liked it, I would like it. And to be honest, sometimes I did. But I would like to see what I came for: the people I follow.
It struck me that the business model of the day is to throw as much shit at you as they can instead of what you actually want. And they make it difficult to get what you want. We live in a never-ending stream of content shot at us like a syringe of heroin. Is any of it any good? Who knows? But it will turn down the volume of insane noise buzzing through your head because we live in a broken world. And if you want to keep up to date on this broken world, you can have all the news at your fingertips. We’re served up “doomscrolling.” It’s too much all the time.
But I want to focus on music.
Music is one of the best, most innocent ways to lose yourself for a moment. Many use some sort of streaming service for music. Their algorithms do a decent job of serving us different artists based on our tastes. And there are massive curated playlists that move culture. Spotify’s RapCaviar can turn unknown independent artists into superstars overnight. But I want to talk about the humble DJ at the close of 2023. Specifically my friend DJ Wiki Ben.
I work from home. Alone. Most times in silence. Like a psychopath. There are many studies that show you should listen to something while you work. White noise is better than nothing. But I forget to listen to anything and then it’s 5pm. It’s a weird effect. I get the same amount of daylight in my office during the day, until I don’t and it’s night. Without music, it can feel like I sat down for ten minutes and it’s been hours.
I’ve attempted to combat this with several headphones and dedicated speakers. Nothing stuck. I may think of using one of these for music, but then I’d have no idea what to listen to, overwhelmed with options. This year I bought a pair of HomePod Minis for my office. I set them up as a stereo pair, and now I can pronounce my desire to listen to music with my voice.
I’d like to say I’ve listened to more music. And I have. Not as much as I’d like. Because I don’t know what to listen to.
My friend Ben has been a radio DJ for over a decade, which seems quaint in this digital age. I would catch his show on a website when I’d remember (which wasn’t as often as I liked). But I’ve been downloading his current show on my podcast app. I’ve noticed how much new music I’m listening to based on his set. Anytime I drive, I put on the podcast version of his weekly show. It’s a struggle to remember what artists I listened to so I can sample the rest of their albums when I get home.
Ben’s tastes are eclectic, and have mirrored my own since we were younger. But music is his passion, and I am rewarded by his thoughtful and concise curation. And I’ve been listening to more music while I work because of him. I don’t have to “think” so much as remember what DJ Wiki Ben recommended on his show this week.
As we reflect upon the closing of 2023, I am hopeful for 2024. I think humans are making a comeback into the conversations we have about technology. Humans are remarkable. The most complex “machines” in the known universe. And one human gave me a gift that billions of dollars invested into software could not. I have spent hours not noticing time, but enjoying it.
If you are like me, try finding a DJ you like. Everyone is online, along with their shows. Even the curated playlists on Apple Music and Spotify have humans working on them. This isn’t earth shattering news. But it is something that has made my own life a little more bearable. Maybe it could help your own?
Photo: Youthful Radio Expert. Illinois Chicago, ca. 1922. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/93510755/.