When People Are Watching, Your Taste In Music Changes

A funny thing happened after Spotify got integrated into Facebook: people felt naked!

They limited their sharing, or worse, cringed after accidentally ‘oversharing’. Spotify even rushed an application upgrade that allowed users to easily turn off their sharing.

But it’s not that sharing is bad – in fact, it’s great, and a big part of the future.  But the future will probably include some level of control.  And the whole episode of ‘playlist privacy lost’ exposed something: we listen differently when others are watching.  That is, we hide certain playlists, we accentuate others.  We pretend we’re more eclectic than we really are, we make ourselves less weird (or more weird).

In fact, there’s research that backs this up. Back in March, the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) conducted a small study on this tied to Last.fm scrobbling.  And they concluded that people – particularly younger people – don’t necessarily lie about their music tastes, they just suppress certain things and accentuate others.

After all, this is your image we’re talking about. “The researchers found that people make active efforts to control the image their online profile gives of them, especially when their music listening is published automatically,” the Science Daily reported.

This is a huge area for evolution, there are endless nuances and special scenarios to consider.  For example, what happens when we’re listening to music we don’t necessarily like, or are simply scanning or sampling?  Should that represent your ‘taste in music’?  “When an online service publishes behavioral information automatically, it is important to give users a chance to express and explain the meanings of their actions,” researcher Lassi A. Liikkanen believes.  “Listening to a song doesn’t necessarily mean that one likes it — or wants to be known as the kind of person who does.”