*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.