Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What do you call it if you don't *have* a space?

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

7 comments:

KC said...

I joined MySpace because my favorite singer had a page there and he was telling his fans about it. I went there and read his page, then never went back to it. I didn't like the interface. I found it confusing and ugly. Now when I want to keep up with my fave singers activities, I just go to his "real" website and fan forum. It's much easier and less confusing. (I also have some local movie-maker friends who have a page at MySpace but I couldn't ever figure out what I was supposed to do once I got there.)

I Blog, You Blog said...

I have a Myspace. I've actually made some new social connections via it. Given the whole "single mom" thing, I don't get a chance to meet a lot of people outside of work and the cool peeps I already knew (TOWWAS, Miss S, etc.)...so it's been fun to get to know a few new folks and hang out with a group that I might not have otherwise.

I'm not lauding it (I get a lot of entirely unsolicited, inappropriate dirty, dirty emails from boys way too young to be sending me unsolicited, inappropriate dirty, dirty emails)...but it can serve a useful function. :)

towwas said...

Yeah - I just joined it and I agree, the interface is ugly. And it also just seems like a whole new way to get viruses and spam. Not sure that's what I need in my life.

Jennifer said...

As the active agent behind the musical entity who invited you (hee hee hee...she twitters nervously), I have to say: there's a big difference between having a band page on myspace and have a personal page. At this point in time it's de rigueur if not a mandatory thing, industry, indie, or otherwise, to have a band myspace page. The tracking of hits, plays, and downloads is hugely helpful, and it makes it so much easier to let a broad network of friends, acquaintences, and other bands know about your existence. I've gotten in touch with far-reaching musical comrades who I haven't seen in years. And it seems like some people do use myspace to seek out new music - we've gotten friend requests from total strangers with really nice comments about the songs.

However. This spring, when I knew that I was going to have to set up a myspace page for the band at some point, I did a test run on myspace, as just little ol' me. Within minutes of my "space" appearing online, I was inundated with friend requests and thuggishly drafted sexual innuendo from illiterate cretins (that's putting it nicely). And it... didn't... stop! It took three or four days of 40-50 messages and friend requests a DAY before I had had enough, and canceled my, uh, space.

One of my sisters, who is also very wary of myspace, set up a profile just so she could join us as a friend (oh filial loyalty!). In her "blurb" about herself, she initially had a very long Dostoevsky quote about being surrounded by the scourge of humanity everywhere one looked. Perhaps she felt like she was being a bit harsh about that; now, her blurb simply reads, "Infernalnet 1, Katie 0."

So dear neighbor J, no worries. I don't take it personally that you opt out of the myspace of one's own. (And now I could go off on a whole different rant about being distracted from distraction by distraction in modern culture - although that is a paraphrase of Theodore Dreiser circa 1910 or so... no? Okay. I'll quit while I'm ahead.)

And now that you've read my rant, might as well take advantage of THIS space for a plug:

www.myspace.com/thejunedays

Note: you don't need to register on myspace to listen and love. :)

xoxo
The neighbor in the basement

J.Bro said...

If only I wasn't balding so that I could dye my asymmetrical haircut black and put it over one of my eyes for my weird-angled picture!

J.Po said...

Dude. I find it totally bizarre what people are willing to reveal about themselves (through pictures and otherwise) on MySpace. I want nothing to do with that crowd.

Potential employers read that stuff, for gods sake. People! STOP BEING SO STUPID!

Spice said...

Yeah, I tried out MySpace and had the same "I don't get it" reaction. I can understand the band-promotion deal, and the blogs/pages for The Office cast have are fun, but otherwise it seems like a less-well-designed Friendster or Facebook. BTW, Facebooking one's students is a hilarious and much-utilized source of entertainment around here - as J.Po said, it's amazing what they'll put on their pages!

After all, Elmo seems equally disinterested in both...

I have a hard time believing that Elmo was traumatized by Katy Perry's decollatage after discovering that he had already "been arou...