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Opinion Spotify Wrapped is the perfect celebration of internet egoism

The Spotify logo on a smartphone in an arranged photograph in Little Falls, N.J., on Oct. 7, 2020. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

Hanukkah is in full swing, and Christmas is right around the corner, but one celebration always stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The festivity in question, of course, is Spotify Wrapped day, when the Swedish music streaming company takes all the data it harvested over the past 12 months to cobble together digests that tell users what songs, artists and genres “defined their year.” Then, said users post the results in droves.

And you know what? It’s a nice time. Not because I actually care that a man I met on Grindr in 2016 is in the top 0.05 percent of Grimes listeners, but because it’s a day where the curtains of social media are drawn back a bit, and we all get to say bluntly what usually hides behind several layers of couth: “I am the protagonist of reality, and with this post I benevolently offer you a glimpse into my rich interior. You’re welcome.”

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In the interest of transparency, I should note that I do not have Spotify. This degree of separation, however, has allowed me to observe from the outside, like a scientist monitoring the behavior of so many mice. What I’ve noticed is that Wrapped day breaks entirely with how most social media content works.

Usually, content contains some attempt at applying a varnish of altruism to justify centering ourselves. “Not quite where I want to be with my body yet, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” a selfie caption might read, attached to an image of the buffest man you’ve ever seen. “Got my booster yesterday, and so far the only side effect is slight fatigue,” a tweet could say, submitted, of course, in the interest of public health. Such posts abide by the law of social media: If you’re going to talk about yourself, you need a good reason. Hint at a universal truth, add to our collective knowledge, support a cause, whatever.

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Spotify Wrapped day suffers no such illusions. It is a Dionysian feast of vanity, a day when people drop the masks and admit that no one asked and no one cares, but they want to share their top songs of the year anyway. Music — the absolute intimacy of it — is what makes this possible. The things we listen to obsessively are mostly if not entirely listened to in private, especially during a pandemic. It’s impossible to pretend it’s virtuous or in the public interest to share that information, as we would if we were posting, say, what books (or “important voices”) we read, or so many other things in our lives.

Refreshingly, people recognize how silly this indulgence is. When they share their Wrapped results, it’s often with a giddy self-awareness. “Spotify Wrapped is sooo validating,” wrote one Twitter user. “Like yeah, if 2021 was a movie I would be the main character, my audio aura IS chill and euphoric, I DO have top tier taste in music, and I AM the hottest person ever.” (Spotify’s account responded, with a wink, “That’s what we’re here for.”) It’s a rare acknowledgment that our posts are driven by flagrant egoism and a misguided belief that we are uniquely important.

In truth, most of our participation on the Internet falls into the same category, regardless of how much we try to dress it up. Is anyone really interested in what any of us have to say?

So as long as social media maintains its stranglehold on daily American life, more honesty about how people behave on it is a good thing. With Wrapped day, it seems people are at last in on the joke. We know what’s fun about being online, and what isn’t. We know why we’re here, why we share certain things and not others, and what the rules are in how we share them.

So while some might view this blessed holiday as just another occasion for people to engage in online solipsism, I raise a glass to it. Here’s to Spotify Wrapped day, to the mundane discovery that every gay person you know is a fan of “Dance Pop,” to newfound knowledge of your aunt’s Bruce Springsteen obsession, and to the freedom to loosen up and acknowledge the elephant in the room: I am the most important person on the Internet, the digital sun rises and sets on me alone, and enjoying Kacey Musgraves is evidence of this fact.

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