We are bombarded daily with social media presence. This is both a blessing and a curse in so many different ways. One thing that I love is that there is a forum for everything! Anyone with an internet connection has access to a wide range of information from all over the world. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. There are so many flute and piccolo related forums that it can be hard to know what information is legitimate and what is not. It is best to proceed with caution when it comes to fielding questions on these forums and gathering information. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the experience.
First, know your audience. Keep in mind that these forums have members that range from young teenagers who are just entering the musical world all the way up to seasoned professionals from many different fields. You can get a response or some advice that is very helpful and sound or you may get a response that is off the wall! Know the source. Look at the post, read the question, then read through the responses. It will become quite clear in most cases what is a valid response and what is not.
Beware the know-it-alls. There are those who spend most of their day on the forums (trolls) answering everyone’s questions and commenting on everything. Before accepting a response as valid, know who is making the response and their background. For example, when someone posts about a flute repair, everyone has their analysis of the issue. There are quite a few technicians who frequent the forums and offer sound advice. There are also quite a few Average Joes who offer their advice. Rarely do the two agree. Following the wrong advice can cost you a great deal of money in repair, and the person who is responsible for paying for the poor advice is you. As a repair technician, I have jumped in on a response to try to help someone only to be shot down and actually “corrected” by an adult amateur who has proudly boasted that they have not had their flute worked on in the 30 plus years they have had it. So, whose advice does it make more sense to follow? A professional repair technician or an adult amateur who doesn’t see the value in a credited repair technician and plays on a 30 year old flute that that is held together with duct tape?
I have also witnessed young students asking for tips with articulation or purchasing a flute. Well-known professional performers and college professors with a lineage of successful students have responded trying to be helpful. Then, an unknown player who has never sat in a professional orchestra or had a student let alone a lesson in their life slams what the professional says, contradicts it completely, and berates the professional. I am always amazed at what I see on these forums. Social media provides a bit of anonymity for people to hide behind their computer screens and become armchair professionals in whatever they feel smart about that day. Know your sources.
If you compare responses, read the posts, and filter through the digital BS, there is a lot that can be gained from these forums. Know your source and use common sense. There is so much regurgitation of what someone only partially understands about a topic, mixed with a strong desire to feel like they are sharing knowledge, that some people can’t help but put in their two cents.
Match the posted question to the appropriate resource response. If someone is shopping for a handmade flute, seeing a suggestion for a flute that is made for a student beginner because they love the model or brand wanders off topic and is inappropriate. We all have to use common sense and due diligence to wade through all of the extraneous comments. If you take time to read through the responses you will be able to determine which have a value added content and which are made armchair know-it-alls who just need to feel important for a moment. Everyone is an expert online. When using any online forum, proceed with caution and beware of the assertive experts. A quick check of a personal facebook page (research) often exposes the person as having no subject matter background. If nothing else, the numerous forums can be a source of jaw-dropping entertainment. Some of the advice people give is absolutely out there but makes for a fun read!