Social media gets a lot of negative press. It’s blamed for the increasing political divide, for increased rates of depression, particularly among teenaged girls, for being some kind of spying tool used by corporations and foreign governments, and more.
And, to be completely honest, much of that is probably accurate.
But it also overshadows the fact that there are some very positive things happening on social media as well.
People are using social media to connect as never before. Information (yes, even accurate information) is being shared in incredibly efficient ways, and aspects of society are getting visibility that would have been prohibitively difficult just a few years ago.
Case in point: the pipe organ.
I’m a fan of the pipe organ. My favorite piece of music ever is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor (you’ll recognize it three notes in). I even have a playlist of various performances thereof, ranging from traditional to electronic. (The Michael Murray recording is my #1 of #1, for those keeping score.)
So I was pleasantly surprised some time ago to stumble across an organist on TikTok.
And then another. And another.
I’ll start with my favorite #organtok organist, Anna Lapwood, @annalapwoodorgan. Her TikTok fame rose when she started posting snippets of her late night practice sessions at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The snippets lead to the occasional live streams, some Q&A, to a surprise performance with the electronic musician Bonobo where she introduced the audience to the power of the Albert Hall organ (described by its builder as “The Voice of Jupiter”). All this has led to an EP produced by Sony Classical Music as well. She currently has over half a million followers on TikTok, and is present on multiple other platforms including YouTube.
Another #organtok TikToker, this time with close to 200k followers, is Wesley Hall, @westpiper. In TikTok sized chunks, Hall introduces us to the instrument, shows off what it can do, interacts with his audience, and more.
Felix Hell, @felixhell.organist, is another professional organist, similarly producing explanatory and exploratory clips on TikTok discussing the instrument, the music, and more. “Shattering preconceptions about the organ worldwide” with a little over 36k TikTok followers.
What these three examples all share is that they’re explicitly bringing what might be considered an obscure, perhaps even staid instrument, to a broader, and younger audience using social media, and getting recognized for it.
This is the promise of social media in action. This is social media being used in a positive, and an ultimately good-for-humanity kind of way.
And while these three are only examples within their genre (I’m sure there are others I haven’t stumbled onto yet), what’s more exciting to me is that the genre itself is also merely an example as well. Other topics, from different music and instruments to entertainment to education to philosophy and more, all have their representatives on social media, and are all gaining wider audiences and traction than they could ever have hoped to without it.
Yes, social media has its issues, no doubt.
But don’t let that overshadow the oportunities and successes that it fosters as well.