Pete's Big MySpace Adventure

I will freely admit that I was once a very sceptical person when it came to MySpace. I was regularly derisive, often mocking those who created accounts and looking upon the whole site in the same way a Daily Mail reader looks upon an interracial couple: with seething contempt. Yet it occurred to me that I had no idea what MySpace was about. It could have been a big pot of raunchy teen sex for all I knew, and I decided that if there was raunchy teen sex to be had, I wanted a piece of it. You see, people fear what they do not understand. Mockery is a common reaction to that fear. So it was out of curiosity, and the desire to confront my fears head-on without resorting to childish name-calling, that I decided to sign up for a MySpace page and experience the website for myself. You may also believe that it was because I succumbed to peer pressure, which is of course bollocks.

And so I gathered my tools. My good friend Dave already had a MySpace profile. He would be my sherpa, my guide to the dark world of MySpace. I took my camera phone and placed it by my side. I combed my hair, read some angst-ridden poetry and downloaded the Fallout Boy album. I was ready to become a MySpacer.

Signing Up

The signup process was off-putting. MySpace kept throwing up all sorts of network problems and wouldn't let me sign in for a few minutes. Maybe it smelled my fear. After finally gaining access to my spangly new profile, I noticed that MySpace had presumptuously guessed my marital status ("single") and desire for children -- I don't want them, apparently. Is this really the default attitude of the MySpace generation? I suppose it means they won't reproduce and MySpace will eventually evolve out of humanity. Oh well.

Tom and Rupert

Tom

Smile, you ugly bastard.

My first and only friend was a communist American calling himself "Tom", who, as of writing, has approximately 77358880 friends. 77 million friends. That's the population of Ethiopia. If ever a man were responsible for indulging in the popularity of his own website, it is surely Tom. Surprisingly, for a guy with such an extensive social network and so many attractive women commenting on his profile page, he still manages to remain single. It must be an everlasting uphill struggle against temptation for poor Tom, who knows he must make that choice between happiness and the continued upkeep of MySpace. Nobly, he chooses the latter. Ethiopia appreciates your sacrifice, Tom.

Of course, Tom doesn't own MySpace any more. Rupert Murdoch took it off Tom's hands a few months ago for the rather princely sum of $580m. Murdoch is an ultraconservative billionaire media mogul, so of course he wants nothing more than to help millions of teenagers make friends with each other and have promiscuous sex. Or do I sense an ulterior motive? I'm not an advertising executive but I'd daresay there's some money to be made if you own the largest teen-based website in the history of the Internet, and Rupert Murdoch sure loves his money. Tom's probably had a payrise or two recently himself. Way to live the communist dream, Tom.

The Profile

After the harrowing signup process was completed I was finally able to go about filling in my profile details. I noticed that lots of other MySpacers fill out their profile with laboriously long lists of things they like, because everyone knows that the more interests you can list on your MySpace page, the more interesting and unique you are. And why not? So I compiled a few lists and added them in. Other 'must-haves' include embedded MP3s, embedded flash virtual pets, embedded flash videos, massive photographs of friends or pets which fill the whole screen, animated GIFs of twirling hearts and sparkling diamonds, results of online surveys ("Which Pokémon are you? You are Pikachu!"), and embedded flash videos which contain masses of oversized photos of friends. I decided to skip such delicacies because despite the completely ghastly and haphazard overall effect of having all these elements on one page, I get the impression that it takes MySpacers a very long time to compile it all. If the average MySpace profile is a train wreck of a webpage, that's not because the train crashed, but because the owner went out and gathered the tiny pieces of the crash site and arranged them all with spectacular patience and determination.

Pictures

Pictures are vital in the MySpace world, because it's not your personality that's important, but your looks. The more attractive you are, the more friends you will have. Isn't that how society should work? There is some respite for ugly people though, because they have at their disposal what I believe are known as the "MySpace angles". These are self-taken photographs of various nondescript body parts (eyes, hair, back of head etc) which can create an illusion of attractiveness without actually revealing the true hideousness of that person. The MySpace photo fad also entails: photographing one's self in the mirror, applying sepia tones or black and white to the photograph, pulling a lonesome or quirky facial expression, or taking the photo from an obtuse angle.

Eager to jump straight in and indulge my internet narcissism, I grabbed my camera phone (only 1.3 megapixel, so perfect for creating slightly blurry images which disguise most of my blemishes) and jumped towards my mirror. Here are some of the 'results':

Me Me Me

This is one of the 'Myspace Angles'. I think it makes me look forlorn and emotional, but certainly not ugly.

Here I am disgruntled, presumably with MySpace because I don't feel I have enough friends.

A mirror shot in a filthy mirror which reflects my filthy existence.

Me Me Me

Another mirror. I'm still unhappy!

They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but that effect may be lost when the eye is almost closed and there's a reflection of a phone on your glasses.

If I were God, this may be what my subjects would see when they looked up and worshipped me. Thankfully there are no boogies in my nose.

Me Me Me

I am quizzically bemused. Perchance I have received a 'friend request' from a long lost acquaintance!

Moved to tears by some Fallout Boy music.

This is how I might look if you denied my 'friend request'. Fuck you bitch!

With my pictures taken and my profile in place, I was ready to start finding some friends.

Let's make friends!

In real life a friend is a rather abstract notion. If you know someone, does that make them your friend? How well do you have to know them? How long do you have to spend in their company? Can you be friends with someone without even knowing their last name? Thankfully these are questions you don't have to answer. You can take your own definition of what a friend is and label people accordingly. This is not the case on MySpace, where friendship is very much a binary decision. Someone is either your friend or not your friend.

I don't like the idea of saying that someone is my friend if I don't really consider them to be one. Unfortunately for me, this is a hang up that doesn't seem to exist for most MySpacers, where of course there is some kind of unspoken pissing contest to see who can amass the largest friendship network. That in itself is pretty futile considering that Tom has already won. The result is people being friends with hundreds of other people who they couldn't possibly profess to know in any intimate detail, thereby devaluing the whole concept of friendship. But maybe that's the point.

Another facet of MySpace friendship is that people are invited to select their 'Top 8' friends who appear in a grid on the main profile page. I can only imagine the desperate anxiety of someone who visits their so-called friend's page one day only to find they have been knocked out of that person's Top 8 by a newer, more attractive person. O, the humanity! I don't really like the idea of social selection like this and it certainly doesn't seem healthy to me. But then again I couldn't even name my Top 8 sandwich toppings, so I guess I'm petrified of free choice and my opinion on this matter is invalid.

MySpace Social Ethos

Something that is not apparent until you're a member is the strange practice of creating 'bulletins': messages which appear to all your 'friends' in a special section on the homepage. You'd have thought that these bulletins would help to serve some form of informative purpose, but no, they're just used to pass around asinine personality surveys. Funnily enough, you could answer a hundred questions and still all I'd be able to ascertain is that you're incredibly boring and have nothing better to do.

An additional rule which surprised me is the caveat that you must be someone's friend to make comments about them: another area where MySpace eschews reality's rules and tries to establish its own. It's a shame all the drunken smartasses who mock my hair don't subscribe to this rule, actually, as I could see it coming in handy in the real world. You can also delete comments which you don't like, a feature designed to shield you from the harsh reality of that little nuisance called 'the truth'.

A Brave New World?

MySpace, a site which started as a way to legitimise shit music, is now cemented into the lives of millions of people worldwide. And despite my best efforts, I really still don't see the point. What does it really accomplish? It lets people keep in contact, sure, but couldn't they do that before MySpace came along? It can be used to trade music and pictures, but there's more efficient ways to do that. It can give people who can't make websites a presence on the net, but looking at the atrocious designs on the site, I suspect there's a very good reason these people can't design their own websites. You can meet new people on MySpace if doing so takes your fancy, but I'd never be willing to do that. It would seem too artificial. But just because I can't see the point of MySpace doesn't mean there isn't one, so I've learnt my lesson. I guess. Plus I've just discovered Facebook which is much better. So long, suckers!

Permalink || Posted 28/6/2006 by Pete

3 comments »«

  1. robodave! - 28/6/2006 - 5:35pm

    CMON ENGLAND!!!!!

  2. Richard Bacon - 29/6/2006 - 7:53pm

    Witty, insightful, humourous, and most of all, achingly true. This was an absolute tour de force of writing skill, a piece which not only pokes fun at the MySpace generation but gets right underneath the very skin of it. This is not just a blog entry my friends, this is an historic piece of social commentary, within which lies a distinctly skeptical outlook on all things "yoof". Read it or weep.

    $$$$$ (5 bacon rashers)

    - Richard Bacon c/o The People newspaper.

  3. helz - 3/8/2006 - 2:54pm

    Tom looks like a waxwork figure in that picture.

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