No, Burlington Wasn’t the Most Popular Spotify Wrapped Sound City

This week the Internet celebrated Spotify wrapped and in doing so, it has led us to believe that the vast majority of us share a musical affinity with Burlington, VTbut in reality, it was a textbook case of social media creating a moment of false universality.

Wrapped is one of the most anticipated days for Spotify users. That’s when the streaming giant gathers your listening data from the past year and compiles your best songs, artists, and genres onto a series of shareable charts. It’s almost impossible to exist online and not see someone posting their Wrapped results on your feed. This year, Spotify introduced us to our “sound cities,” the city whose listening most aligns with ours.

On X/Twitter, Sound Cities quickly rose to the forefront of the Spotify Wrapped conversation. Apparently everyone, including me, was dealing with it in Burlington, Vermont – and to a lesser extent in Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. These are notably university towns.

A User X/Twitter posted a graphic of three Disney Games teams labeled “Burlington, Berkeley and Cambridge” and captioned it “the tl rn”. It received 53,000 likes. A tweet quote saying, “Imagine explaining this to me literally 24 hours ago” from another meme garnered 137,000 likes. There is no denying the omnipresence of audio conversations in the city.

However, Spotify later revealed to NBC News that only 0.6 percent of listeners chose Burlington, 0.3 percent chose Berkeley, and 0.1 percent chose Cambridge as their sound cities. In fact, the most popular sound city was San Luis Obispo, California, at 0.8% out of more than 1,300 total sound cities.

So why does it seem like everyone is up for Burlington, even prompting artists like Troye Sivan and Charli XCX to respond to the meme with their own versions?

That’s because on Spotify Wrapped Day, the social media echo chamber was working overtime. Jokes about these specific cities gained traction and proliferated as more X/Twitter users competed to capitalize on the viral moment, creating a false narrative. As more people posted about Burlington, the trend started to grow on X and exploded even further into something that, statistically, it wasn’t. The accounts encouraged their followers to share if they were a “Son of Berkeley, California or daughter of Burlington, Vermont” and their place is the gay commune of Berkeley, the lesbian commune of Burlington or the bisexual commune of Cambridge – triggering an endless feedback loop of people posting and being reaffirmed by accounts already sharing similar media tastes and demographics.

Rather than questioning the relationship between the type of music you listen to and the people you follow or how often you post on social media, Burlington’s popularity has been deemed universal, or at the very least universal in the eyes of the public. The LGBTQ+ community, according to them.

It’s also possible that tweets about Burlington received so much attention because the city was already trending due to recent tragic events in the news. Burlington’s fake omnipresence on Spotify Wrapped quickly flooded the real news of the shooting of three students of Palestinian origin.

The phenomenon was then legitimized by members of the mainstream media, many of whom exist in the same hyper-online spaces. Information sites, Crushable includedcovered the Burlington trend, leading to greater visibility and even more posts and shares.

Although this is a joke, the online discourse around Sound Cities paints an inaccurate portrait of Wrapped and the app’s users. While Burlington’s popularity may not matter much, it highlights the effects of the social media echo chamber… the result of algorithms that impact more than just our news and how we interact with it.

It’s safe to say that if we all moved to our sound towns, Burlington would be rife with internet drama, because that’s apparently where Extremely Online is headed.

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