Remembrance of social media past (with bonus Bowie)


Social media is
endlessly new. Endlessly now. It is always about the moment. Social media is endlessly changing, ever-evolving. But relics remain of what came before


While social media is all about building, erasing and rebuilding the impression of
the endlessly new, social media as we know it is now comparatively long in

Two things have brought this home to me over the past few days.

Five years

Yesterday (Friday 21 October 2016), my friend Helen Reynolds shared something of a blast from the (surprisingly recent) social media past. Helen tweeted that she’d just
received her first Facebook “poke” since 2011. Five years.


Transported back to social media past in
a manner almost Proustian* by the reminder of this once universal, now forgotten Facebook facet, I asked Helen if this might herald
a return to still more old-skool use of Facebook:

“Might today delve further back into FB history with folks posting third-person status
updates continuing from their name?”

I was surprised
to realise that Facebook has been with us for more than a decade now. It beggars
belief to think that back when I first heard of it in late 2006, being on
Facebook – indeed having even heard of it – had some kind of elitist cachet.
Younger readers may gawp at this, but back in 2006 one had to be invited to
join Facebook by someone who was already a member.**

The return of the thin white duke

Gentle reader,
know this of me: I am so obsessed by music that I will watch or read pretty
much anything music-related, even if it relates to genres or artistes I can’t
stand. I hope this goes some way towards explaining the circumstances of my second
recent remembrance of social media past.

Last Sunday (15 October 2016) I watched a silly and
somewhat-better-than-you’d-expect 2009 teen film on Film4, called Bandslam***
(about a young indie kid who becomes manager-cum-muse to a high-school indie
band as they gear up for a battle-of-the-bands competition, cunningly entitled

This film is
remarkable for one reason.

(The following
definitely counts as a spoiler if you ever have any intention of viewing this
film. Ready?)

Bandslam marks
the very final cinematic appearance of Dame David Bowie.

In an amazing
illustration of how fast social media moves, the film
concludes with the thin white duke making his last visit to the silver screen to get in touch with the band after coming across
them… on MySpace.

(Oddly, the
only version of this historical cinematic moment that I can find online is
dubbed into Italian. The film in its original form has a voiceover from a
frail-sounding Bowie in his native English, congratulating the band on their
music and offering them a deal on his new indie label).

This must have
been something of a coup for the filmmakers, as Bowie was deep into his
reclusive final phase by then. It’s also oddly fitting that Bowie’s film career
should bow out in such a very Bowie way – tapping into the music scene’s young
bloods**** via the most up-to-date means. In 2009, MySpace couldn’t have been more
now. In 2016, the year in which we lost Bowie, MySpace couldn’t be more then. Bowie was an is endlessly now.

It is fascinating to me that social media is now so “mature” and so embedded in our daily lives that things like the “poke” and “MySpace” are near-forgotten.

What do you most miss about social media past? What are you most looking forward to from social media future?

Bowieful competition

  • This competition is almost insultingly easy – and to add further insult to insult, there is no prize (hey, I can’t give everything away). Can you name all the Bowie songs referenced in this post?


* Need an intro
to Proust? Monty Python gotcha back.

** Goodness knows why they let me in. This must be where the Facebook rot set in.

*** It seems this film was entitled High School Rock in some territories, which is perhaps a little too on-the-nose for the attempted High School Musical cash-in that it was surely intended to be.

**** I was pleased recently to discover that Bowie continued until the end to take inspiration from now in his music. Last December, I wrote the following after hearing Bowie’s song Blackstar for the first time:

I’m just speculating here, but it’s delightful to me to think that the
music on Bowie’s Blackstar could be influenced by the more jazzy,
exploratory extremes of what is for me the best album of 2015, Kendrick
Lamar’s staggering To Pimp A Butterfly.

It seems I was actually right! My friend Mervyn Dinnen recently linked me to a great Guardian article entitled The new cool: how Kamasi, Kendrick and co gave jazz a new groove.

To Pimp a Butterfly was certainly on the radar of David Bowie and the jazz musicians with whom he recorded his final album. ‘It was an album that David talked about a lot, both with me and with producer Tony Visconti,’ says saxophonist Donny McCaslin, the musical director of Blackstar. ‘It is a staggering piece of art. And oddly, I found Kendrick’s rapping – his intonation, his rhythms, his syncopation, the spirit of his phrasing – heavily influenced my own saxophone playing, both on Blackstar and on my new album. David was very much intrigued by a musician like Kendrick who was creating a personal vision: something that was a mix of many genres, but not really sounding like any of them. I guess it’s something that he has always done. I mean, what is Blackstar? It’s not a jazz record or a rock record, it was David’s personal vision. And it’s the same with To Pimp a Butterfly.‘”

I think you can hear some of this influence by first listening to Kendrick Lamar’s How Much a Dollar Cost? (annoyingly only available in instrumental form on YouTube)…

…followed by Bowie’s Lazarus.

Thank you, Mervyn. Thank you, Kendrick. And thank you, Bowie.

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