October 09, 2012

Facebook: made for us

The long-time popularity of social media among pipers and drummers is no coincidence. Social networking has been labeled antisocial for many years, as the world bemoans the fact that no one actually talks to each other anymore, choosing instead to accept as many “friends” as possible on Facebook.

I wish there were stats for this, but my hunch is that the piping and drumming community outpaced other groups in Facebook uptake in the early days of the social platform. And is it any wonder? We pipers and drummers are, by and large, a bunch of introverts attracted to the solo spotlight, so the narcissistic nature of Facebook is a perfect stage for our “look at me, me, me, me” mentality.

Sitting on my amateur psychologist’s couch, I think that most of us are attracted to the whole kilt-wearing, noise-making, parade-walking, centre-of-attention instrument as a convenient means to step into the spotlight without having to say a word. We let the spectacle do the talking. When we’re at piping and drumming social events, we generally thirst for a bit of Dutch Courage to allow us to intermingle, taking the edge off of actual encounters with – yikes! – other humans.

As with everything, there are exceptions. There are the odd extroverts in piping and drumming. They stand well apart from the near-silent majority. They do their strange thing and are generally celebrated freaks in our little self-centred community. The rest of us would much rather be in the basement, hammering away at the practice chanter or drum pad, standing before a mirror gazing longingly at our own image without the bother of others. Our best performances invariably are shared only with an audience of one, and perhaps the family pet.

I’ve said before that solo piping and drumming is a selfish conceit. We might kid ourselves that others actually care, but in truth we compete solo for strictly personal reasons, each of which we resolve on our own terms. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My diagnosis: it is what it is. If it makes you happy; do it.

And Facebook provides the same release. Look at me! Listen to my doublings! What a wonderfully colourful kilt I’m wearing! Here I am guzzling a pint! I won! I’m in a parade! I have a thousand “friends”!

Facebook is the world’s biggest massed band. We’re friends with everyone and almost no one. Our common bond is our music. Our keyboard becomes a surrogate practice chanter or pad.


  1. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe the remarkable utilization of Facebook by the piping and pipe band community is because there are so few of us and we are spread out all across the globe by the Great Scottish Diaspora. This has little to do with personal ego or narcissism. It has everything to do with group identity communication and community/mutual interests. Before the internet and social media, we were all isolated, with some of us lucky enough to live somewhere with great tuition available but most left to our own devices. Not now. An aspiring piper or drummer can Skype tuition from the best in the world, can watch the Worlds Grade 1 finals on live streaming, chat and message on line with the best and brightest of our little musical world. Just look at the remarkable world-wide support for the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, when they were threatened a few years ago. That support may be called upon again as fiscal constraints again loom on the horizon. Voices from Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and America will again be heard. When an american piper attends Winter Storm they may meet others for the 1st time, but more likely then not they already are acquaintances/friends on Facebook. Just look at the world-wide popularity of Pipes|Drums! QED

  2. When I read the headline of your blog I thought: “Yeah, he is so right”. After reading through the whole text, I have to say I still agree with the headline, but not with the argument you make for it.
    I think facebook is made for us, because the pipe band community spans the globe and is a rather international affair. Facebook being the first real world wide global social network, presented a brilliant opportunity for players and fans to stay connected beyond comeptitions and summer schools. I for example switched from a national social network to facebook for exactly that reason.
    Through facebook, players active in one of the minor pipe band countries (I still count Germany as one of those), can connect much more easily with the core of the pipe band world.
    Sure bands and individuals use facebook to show case their achievements, but I do not see this as a substitue act for basement prone introverts. I believe it is more of an extention of feedback and acknowldgement in a culture that usually has a very limited audience on the day. On the one hand, you can gather feedback from pipe band folks that could not see/hear you in person. On the other hand, you have the chance to present your passion and achievements to your “normal” friends, even if they would never set foot on to a competition field or recital hall.
    I see facebook as an excellent chance to both connect the pipe band community and spread what we do into the general population. That is why facebook is made for us.

  3. Excellent article, which I agree with. You Tube is also the unbridled frontier when it comes to many ‘pipers’ (the term used loosely). If I had a dollar for every “Itchy Fingers” and the ubiquitous crossing noises that come with it………..

    As a piper, I see Facebook as a means to keep in touch with a few close piping friends who are overseas.

    But the piping content has also, above all other reasons, been the closest thing to being the reason for me to cancel my FB. I curse a huge percentage of ‘accepts’ I agreed to in the wee hours every time my computer/phone jams up with notifications about how some street band wants me to know about their bbq next weekend, or that they’ve purchased new tartan ties to wear at the upcoming Tractor Appreciation Society parade. Whoopee. And don’t even start me on that time of the year when all the Burns Suppers roll into town!

    Like anything, it works for a while.



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