MyWHATNow?

*WARNING* The following is a MySpace rant. Hardly original I know, but it had to be done.

I just had an experimental foray into MySpace – it turns out I know two people (and we’re talking ‘know’ in the sense that I’ve actually been down the pub with them) who have MySpace pages. Still fighting the need to sit down and write that damn blog club entry, I decided to have a look and see what all the fuss was about.

Oh. Dear. God.

I found A’s page quite easily. I couldn’t find the Divine M’s page on a cursory examination but apparently she’s in the process of starting up a new page anyway, so that’s ok. (As an aside, it’s interesting how digital property has become something to be fought over when friendships go sour – it used to be you had to divide the mutual friends. Now you end up arguing over who gets the MySpace page.)

I can only give you first impressions because, well, I didn’t hang around long enough to have second or third impressions. In fact, it took me longer to shut down the few MySpace pages I had browsed through than it did to look at them in the first place. One more reason to dislike MySpace – it locked my computer for a good five minutes!

A’s page wasn’t that badly designed as these things go. At least there were no flashing lights, it was readable, and I could more or less guess what the frell was going on. A few of the other pages I skipped through had me going “my eyes, my eyes” and lunging for the x button. One page I tried to view was totally green, both text and background. I know the appalling designs are one of the things MySpace is famous for, but really – what kind of fool creates a page that is unreadable and thinks that is a good thing?

One thing that struck me was a message that was at the top of A’s page saying “Anna is in your extended network“. Hang on a minute here – how can I have a MySpace network, extended or otherwise, if I’m not (and never intend to be) a member of MySpace? I understand that pretty much the only reason to have a MySpace page is to connect to other people (hell, that’s one of the main reasons I have Bright Meadow) and that networks are the driving force behind pretty much all social sites. But if I’m just browsing through a site, without even signing in, how can something be classed as being “in” my extended network? What defines an extended network? Perhaps that message appears on all MySpace pages you haven’t rated as “friends” (and don’t get me started on the idiotic use of that word – a friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a mutual bond. How can you be a “friend” of a band’s webpage? Friend requires reciprocity. You could be a fan, on the other hand…). Yes, Flickr does a similar thing with “contacts”, but you can further define that relationship into “friend” or “family”. A Flickr contact is just someone who’s pictures you like and want to see more of.

Perhaps you can define levels of ‘friend’ granularity in MySpace. I’d be interested to know more how it works if someone wants to tell me – I’m not signing up myself. Bright Meadow is blog enough for me thanks – that, and the popularity contest aspect of MySpace chills me. Listing the number of “friends” you have and the number of times your profile has been viewed just seems like a recipe for disaster. My own innate competitiveness would be bound to kick in and I’d get all depressed I wasn’t more “popular” than I was.

I’ve strayed somewhat off the point, and my question was this – what the frell is ‘an extended network’? All the pages I looked at had that little banner on them, so I would be forced to guess that my extended network at this point includes all the tens of millions of pages on MySpace. Hell, I’m one popular girl if that’s the case. Perhaps this MySpace isn’t so bad after all…

I had held off from looking at MySpace because my gut reaction was that I wouldn’t like it. I was right – I loathe it with a fiery, fiery passion. The usability sucks (I’ll take pity here and not add to the canon of work that exists already on how badly designed MySpace is from a usability standpoint) and the concept disturbs me at the most visceral level. The blatant sex-ploitation of the women (and men) on MySpace is one big bugbear for me. All the profiles saying “I’m 20, female, single/taken/dating/looking…” I suggest going and reading Leila’s thoughts on the whole MySpace subject as well. She’s a little more coherent and well written than me.

At the same time, I can see the good in MySpace. I point you in the direction of danah and her work on social networks, especially how how teens use online spaces because they don’t have access to safe public spaces. Ironically enough, she even has a MySpace, with an example of another of my pet MySpace peeves (auto-play music – even if it is a good track), but I think I’ve used up all my grump for the day so we’ll leave it at that.

I’m led to understand that you aren’t ON MySpace, you HAVE a MySpace. Regardless of syntax, I won’t be on/have a MySpace any time soon. So perhaps “fiery, fiery passion” is a bit strong – we’re talking more of a distaste and a “it’s not for me” feeling here – but, no. No MySpace for Cas. Now I’ve just got to formulate the answer for people who go “Oh, you have a blog? That’s like a MySpace right?” Unfortunately, slapping them down isn’t a good enough answer.

9 thoughts on “MyWHATNow?

  1. For a minute there I thought I’d already checked MySpace out. How could I not have? But, boy, was I unprepared when I clicked that link. It took a while for me to figure out what was going on, when I began hearing a moaning voice somewhere in my flat (drunk neighbours?) until I realized what this autoplay was exactly.

    I should not have done this, but I decided to browse. I’m not quite sure how to describe the sensation that followed. Something like: ow, yikes, uurgh, duh, whot? I then tried switching off my screen while trying to look the other way. I had to go outside for a minute of fresh air.

    Do you believe that one of TheirSpaces I saw, actually had an animated background? It felt like I was suddenly in a Vulcan nerve pinch!

    Still, I got to see nothing but Belgian girls that were single, in my network and looking for me. Now wasn’t that a nice surprise!

  2. Currently, extended network means nothing. Every page for every viewer says that this person is in your extended network. It used to be meaningful when they calculated network distance between people but they don’t anymore. I suspect that they’re leaving that space there so that they can do so again but it’s been dead space for years now.

  3. I will answer all properly later, but on site?

    Perhaps you can sell a gadget that people attach to their computers and then as soon as they type in the url “myspace” it fires a little bullet or something at them?

    (Sorry – spending a day in staff customer care training has sapped any will to be nice I might have had. Ironic, but there you go).

  4. That explanation makes some sense – as much sense as MySpace does to me – thank you. And welcome to Bright Meadow 🙂

    And I will grudgingly admit to liking a MySpace page. After wresting the link from her, I did have fun reading the Divine M’s page. Her bio is *very* entertaining. But then she’s an entertaining person anyway so that’s hardly surprising.

    Unless anyone else has a MySpace page they feel the need to share however, I think I’m MySpace’d out for now. It’s all those blinking cursors. I’m gonna have nightmares of them chasing me, I just know it.

    And in my defense yes, I am aware I’m being a design snob.

  5. It was a weak attempt at a pun, but it didn’t work and WordPress wouldn’t let me edit the comment!

    But to expand on your idea: no, I’m not proposing that anybody who merely types the MySpace URL gets shot. Just those who click “create account”. And anyone who puts auto-playing songs on their page gets shot twice.

    I’ve never seen a MySpace page that was clear and easy to navigate. I’ve never seen a MySpace page that contained anything vaguely approaching interesting information — it might be there, but I sure can’t find it. I’ve never seen a MySpace page that didn’t give me a headache with its stupid tiny text in umpteen disorganised columns. I simply can’t for the life of me understand what would possess someone to want to associate themselves with something that looks like that.

    Compare and contrast to another popular social networking site, Facebook.com (you need an e-mail address — an alumni one is fine — from an “approved” uni to get an account). It allows users to put in much the same information as MySpace, put up photos, form interest groups, keep in touch with friends, and so on. But it’s simple and clear and easy to navigate. It shows how things should be done.

    I simply cannot understand the continuing popularity of MySpace when it’s clear to anyone with half a braincell how painfully BAD it is.

    Rant over.

  6. I think the popularity of MySpace is partly how easy it is to set up – you DON’T need an ‘approved’ email account (mini-Facebook rant of my own there. I dislike closed groups, though Facebook is becoming what it wasn’t designed to be. It was always designed to be an intra-college thing, not scaling to world-wide). Any one and their cat can (and sometimes seems does) have a MySpace. There’s a pleasure to be had in how easy it is to connect to other people, make them your ‘friends’.

    Also, the sheer customizability has to be a draw. Yes, it leads to some god-awful designs, but it can also lead to prettiness – Derek has a good looking MySpace overlay readily available. There’s no excuse 😉

    As an aside, a comment made at the pub tonight about a friend of a friend of a friend who has a band he describes as Emo. “No, it can’t be Emo. They don’t have a MySpace page…”

  7. My teenaged son is addicted to myspace. Once in awhile, he accidentally leaves his Myspace IM open ( we usually share a computer) and while I’m sitting here, a million messages from his “friends” start popping up at me…so SO tempting to invade his privacy and read them, then go to his site and see what juvenile delinquencies he’s working up on there. So far I have resisted because of pure, unadulterated fear of what you described in your post. I’m afraid of the noise- the colors- the blinking things. He is the one who found the “glittery graphics” for my blog, which were intended for myspace pages and he says those are pretty tame, compared to most. My color-changing, blinking eyes are TAME? I shudder.
    And you thought I put those on there for fun. No, it was for the love of my child, whose precious feelings I will not hurt, even if I don’t care for blinking, color-changing eyes.
    Now I have people who keep asking me if I’m on myspace. Like twice a day. So, my question is, if it’s to “meet” people, why are the people who already know me asking if I’m on there? What do I not know about the magic of myspace?

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