The favorite songs prompt that's taking over Twitter makes no sense whatsoever
And yet I still took the bait.
Many things about Twitter have changed since Elon Musk took over last year, but one thing we appear to be stuck with forever is the prompt tweet. For those unfamiliar, the prompt tweet is a genre of tweet in which the original poster gives the reader explicit permission to do the thing they already subconsciously wanted to do when they opened Twitter in the first place: seize upon any thinly veiled excuse to somehow make the news of the day about themselves.
My anecdotal observation is that prompt tweets are most prevalent in the summer, when Congress is in recess and there are no sports to post about (sorry, baseball). Prompter’s Law dictates that this content void must necessarily be filled with exhortations to use your most recent incoming text message to caption a photo of Queen Elizabeth nodding off during a state dinner.
The most viral prompt tweets walk a fine line between being universal (everyone has had a version of this experience) and specific (but few people have had an experience exactly like yours). Prompt tweets are, at their core, elaborate excuses to share banal opinions, autobiographical trivia, or — often — a combination of thereof. In no other setting would it feel anything short of psychotic to inundate a room full of strangers with a list of the cities in which you attended your first five concerts. And yet the successful prompt tweet overrides the social stigma against off-topic interjections by hijacking the human need to have our lives witnessed and acknowledged by others.
Rarely do prompt tweets feel like a genuine attempt to learn more about your Twitter friends. Usually, they can be traced back to a desire to expand the original poster’s reach and grow their follower count, not to genuinely absorb and engage with the responses. Some posters have even become notorious for posting the same prompt tweets over and over, at predetermined intervals. (Yes, I’m talking about Eric Alper.)
Perhaps the foregoing has left you with the impression that I view myself as impervious to the temptations of the prompt tweet. Reader, I do not. It was only when I was almost done crafting my own response to this one that I fully realized just how insane the enterprise actually was.
If Twitter’s public-facing statistics can be trusted, then this tweet has been seen by 17.6 million people — a number greater than the populations of all but four U.S. states. Even though I only log on about twice a week (maybe more, if I’m avoiding a writing assignment), I have seen it in my feed upwards of a dozen times. It seems as if everyone I follow has chimed in, from the 50-follower struggle-tweeters to the formerly-verified media personalities. The favorite songs tweet has become so ubiquitous that it has spawned an entire sub-genre of meta-memes.
All this, despite the fact that the original tweet makes absolutely no sense. It asks you to select twenty songs based on three different criteria (arguably more than three criteria), some of which directly contradict the others. After the first sentence, each additional word in the tweet makes the assignment more confusing, not less.
“Make a 20-track comp of your all-time fav tracks, each artist can only feature once” would work as a stand-alone prompt.
So would 20 tracks which are not “the ‘best’ songs, [but] the ones that bring instant joy the second you hear the first note.” This one seems like it’s about songs that give you the most superficial enjoyment, not the ones that overlap with Pitchfork’s 100 Best Songs of the Year.
But 20 tracks that “give other people the best insight into what stirs your soul” seems like it’s in search of the songs that give you durable, profound enjoyment.
You could further subdivide prompt two into songs with great opening riffs and songs that bring instant joy. The manner in which a song begins and its capacity to elicit a joyous response don’t seem particularly related.
Mashing all four of these together doesn’t make any sense. How many songs are there with immediately recognizable opening notes? That are disposable and campy but are also the source code for your entire personality? That are performed by artists not mentioned elsewhere in your list?
If you were to take this prompt as seriously as possible, this assignment would take hours, maybe spread across two or more days. This is far too much effort to pour into a prompt tweet, I realized.
And yet there I was, efforting.
If yesterday’s newsletter is proved anything, it’s my love for complaining about social phenomena and then participating in them anyway. So here’s my best stab at adhering to these deranged criteria. Drop yours in the comments, if you feel so led.
TTFA will be back tomorrow or Friday, maybe both. Who knows, perhaps it will even tangentially pertain to the start of the football season for the team that this newsletter is ostensibly about.
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