Music Contra Instagram

Hang on a minute while I check my receiver's front panel..... Okay — as I suspected, it doesn't have a switch that limits the amount of time I can spend listening to music.

If you are reading this, you completely understand that a stereo is more than a stereo. It is not just some electronics and two speakers. It is a device, an almost magical one, that brings symphony orchestras, rock bands, R&B, jazz, folk, opera, country, rap, and all kinds of music into your life.

Formerly if you had a big record collection and especially now if you have a streaming subscription, it is almost impossible to count the number of hours of music that are available to explore and enjoy. The idea that you should limit those hours, restrict your access to that sonic magic, would be unimaginable.

And yet that is precisely what Instagram is contemplating. The company is testing “Take a Break” reminders to encourage users to step away from its product. Don't get me wrong – I am certainly not opposed to such a restriction on this swirling time-waster. I heartily endorse it. As you know, Instagram is owned by Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook, Inc.)

My point is this: pastimes such as listening to music have always been generally regarded as being time well spent. That's because music is almost universally regarded as something that is uplifting and even noble. Even a song with lyrics that I might find distasteful might convey an important social message to another listener. In contrast, newer pastimes (social media, and video games, I am looking at you) have increasingly come under scrutiny.

Even after long hours of music listening, at the very worst, you would have been exposed to one of the most creative endeavors — music composition — that human beings can accomplish. After long hours of Instagram, can we say the same? Because it is so beneficial, music therapy is widely prescribed. Instagram therapy? Not so much. Music is fundamental to worship. Instagram. Uh, no.

Instagram's testing of “Take a Break” seems right on par with Lucky Strike putting “Smoking may be hazardous to your health” labels on cigarettes and Budweiser putting up “Don't drink and drive” billboards. For that matter, also much like alcohol, Instagramming while driving may be hazardous to your health, and to the health of everyone around you.

Yes, I freely admit that my argument has a “Get Off My Lawn!” kind of vibe to it. Perhaps I don't understand how culturally enriching Instagram really is. But when a company voluntarily tests ways to limit use of its product, you have to suspect that it is trying to head off involuntary parental or government limits, or at least knows that the product it's peddling has a certain defective quality. I should also note that the company has paused development of Instagram for Kids. No comment necessary on my part.

My solution? Easy. Lay off the social media. Put on a piece of your favorite music, Better yet — put on a piece of unfamiliar music, preferably something you think you'll positively hate. Listen to it. Carefully. What is the composer trying to say? Is the performer simply playing the piece or adding (or subtracting) to it? What feelings does the music inspire in you? When you close your eyes, what pictures come into your head? Are the images beautiful, ugly, relaxing, frightening? If that piece of music was a message directly solely to you, how would you reply?

Congratulations! You've just created more neural pathways, instead of rotting some away.