First of all, this is not an endorsement for MySpace.
MySpace has provided me with numerous pet peeves all on its own. I find many of MySpace's practices, er, questionable.
Social networking has become an unavoidable practice for anyone using the internet. I came to accept that a long time ago. I can even cite examples of how I've used social networks to change my entire life for the better. Ultimately, I think the premise of social networking is a good one.
But I have to say, I abhor the part of social networking culture that has managed to butcher the English language in everyday speech for otherwise intelligent people.
You all know what I'm talking about. "Comment me." "I friended him." Oh, dear Lord. That business makes me want to scream, cram my fingers in my ears, and never remove them.
I understand language must evolve and change, as must culture itself. I'd prefer that these changes didn't always adopt the lowest common denominator. It often feels like I'm in the minority with that. It's probably not hard to deduce that I don't eat fast food or watch "reality TV," either.
Anyway, on to Facebook. Or rather, not.
I know so many people who love Facebook. And I have to say, I don't get it. There are multitudes of ways to keep in touch online.
But it's not really about keeping in touch, is it? It's about being seen keeping in touch.
MySpace is that way as well. The "comments" are most often used to conduct conversations in public that are better suited to private dialogues. Communicating publicly in this way can create a stunted, gossipy environment. Unlike a blogging portal, I rarely see people saying anything useful when they comment.
Facebook has all this and more. Facebook seems to be a virtual embodiment of the school cafeteria. You can even "throw food" at people! I have read about some of Facebook's features. They sound positively puerile. "Poking," and "vampire bites," and digital gifts that you have to pay for. I just don't have time for any of that.
MySpace's new Facebook inspired skin and "status updates" really irritate me. If you want to know what I'm up to, send me a message. Or a genuine e-mail!
The worst aspects of social networking embrace the clique model of friendship.
One of the best things for me about being in my thirties is that friendships tend to finally abandon that clique model. Your workplace may embody it. But at the end of the day, you can go home and ignore it.
Except that all your friends are probably hanging out on Facebook, as are mine.
I couldn't wait to get out of school. And I've dedicated much of my life to avoiding the kinds of working environments that replicate the atmosphere of school. I love learning. I love a project that I can lose myself in. I do not like the social by-product that goes hand in hand with artificially hierarchical environments.
Back to MySpace for a moment
MySpace owns all the content we put on our pages. That's why you will never see me put a book excerpt - or any other writing that I wish to sell - on MySpace. I don't think they want to use my content. But it pays to be careful with intellectual property, especially since the laws protecting it are still pretty murky.
I choose what I will put on Myspace because I know the rules. I don't volunteer information about my likes and dislikes, because these networks are used for data mining.
I've done everything I know how to do to keep this page from being market-research friendly. People get paid for participating in market research. Why should I post a list of interests as part of a database and give that information away for free?
Now I will give this to Facebook: they're a lot more transparent than MySpace. They admit that the carrot for investors is their data-mining prowess. Superior data-mining. That's why their shares are so coveted by large media companies. That's why Microsoft and Google went to war over less than 2% of Facebook.
I admire the young entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg for driving his site, currently showing $150 million in revenues, to a market valuation of $15 billion. He's 24 years old. That's amazing, and I often wish I possessed anything close to that level of business acumen.
Here's the level of business acumen I do possess: what's in it for me? I'm a social networking user, and here are the details I'm willing to provide to the site in exchange for access, yes? So what do I get from Facebook in exchange for my details?
For me, it's not a fair trade.
MySpace enables me to have a basic page that is public. True, to see my photos or read my blogs, you have to sign in and add your own details. But my main page comes up in Google, and people who don't know me can stumble onto me and my work. I get a certain extent of free marketing space here.
Facebook's pages are only visible to people in your address book. That means you already have to know them, or meet them in real life first, before you can add them. Privacy buffs love that aspect, and yet they have no problem providing the company itself with all their details.
The minute I find a social network containing all positive aspects of MySpace without all the negative ones, I'm probably outta here, too.
Until then, while the lesser of two evils is still evil, MySpace is the devil I know. And for now, no one here is "poking" me.
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