Recently, the day I'd been dreading for months finally arrived - I received my first invitation to join MySpace. Now, I know that the person who invited me has very good reasons for having a MySpace page – it's great for publicity and a good way to market one's work given my friend's line of work. But for regular people like me I fail to see what the point of it is.
Full disclosure, like all the other people who listened to the piece on All Things Considered, I joined Friendster back when it was still “new” and “hip”. And like most of us I marvelled as my social network blossomed into the thousands, amazed at how I was linked to people I already knew via mutual friends and friends-of-friends. It was an opportunity to play six degrees of Kevin Bacon but with ourselves as the main character – the social nexus of society. And I know that I don't need to tell you, dear reader, that being the nexus of one's circle of friends makes a guy feel pretty powerful indeed...
But then the number of people on Friendster started to taper off. Copycat sites started popping up, and my network stopped growing. I started accepting friendster requests from complete strangers who invited me purely by accident. It wasn't the same. That's when it hit me – these social networking sites are pointless for regular people. Sure, bands can use them to market themselves and distribute their music, movie studios can use them to generate “buzz” about upcoming blockbusters. But unless you've got something to sell, they strike me as the lazy person's way to maintain social ties.
Instead of actually working to keep in touch with friends by making phone calls and writing letters or emails to each person one-by-one, you simply go to one place, update the site with the same information and then expect all your friends to come to you – thus essentially transferring the responsibility of maintaining the friendship from you to them. If they don't visit your page, then it's their fault that you've lost touch. “Hey, don't blame me” they say, “I've got a MySpace page, it's not like it's hard to keep in touch with me”.
But I'm troubled a little by this opinion of mine. Does this make me a luddite? I've always considered myself fairly cutting-edge* when it comes to technology and the latest techno-geek gadgetry. And now my inner geek is starting to feel threatened by my lack of participation. This is the sort of self-doubt that makes people seriously consider cybernetic implants and attending conventions where people dress up like Spock or stormtroopers – but that seems like simple over-compensation.
So I don't think I'll ever end up with a MySpace. Thankfully, they seem to have been going all corporate since getting purchased by Rupert Murdoch, so maybe their coolness factor will disappear under a wave of corporate tie-ins and banner ads. And then maybe people will start actually writing letters again.
* If not bleeding edge