I got what I expected while browsing Myspace. As a former user, I thought it to be nostalgically amusing albeit unsettling. When I deleted my account, users were just starting to get into sparkly .gif posts on their page, as well as HTML layouts that gave theirspace a more personalized flair. I noticed that there were a LOT more girls/women then boys/men on Myspace currently, as opposed to before when I felt like my friend list was an even ratio. There was a fair amount of profiles that disclosed a lot of personal information, and there were a lot of weird sparkly icons that quoted hip-hop artists. And let’s not forget the pictures where the user’s best assets were shown off (boobs).
I could say that there is some sort of hierarchical difference between Myspace and Facebook, but in the end they’re both websites where you can put virtually anything that you feel expresses yourself. They’re both websites where you can make yourself as perfect as you want to be portrayed. They’re both venues through which narcissism is pretty socially acceptable, on some sort of level. I can’t hate on Myspace users too much, because I have a Facebook. While I can say that I like to keep in friends who are far away, I also like that I get my own online space to post pictures or communicate easily with anyone. Myspace doesn’t seem private, but Facebook started out as a college student network, and now anyone can join. Also Mark Zuckerberg supposedly owns your photos and could sell them (I’ve heard and read both sides to this, but either way, it IS personal information posted on the Internet). And pictures of really drunk people are pretty unavoidable on either site. My overall view after viewing random Myspace profiles remains the same; I feel that people have different preferences, and there are people who just feel more comfortable with one site than the other.
I remember when Myspace was the new, trendy site all my friends were using. I must have been about 15 years old, then, and it was the cool thing to do to be on Myspace, update your “Top Friends,” and choose a new background for your page. Before Facebook became popular, this was this most exciting and convenient way to stay in touch with your friends, despite the fact that you saw them everyday at school.
When Facebook came around and my friends and I began creating our own accounts, I was hesitant to switch over because I had become so comfortable with Myspace. Now, looking back, Myspace definitely does not seem as user-friendly or safe as Facebook. It is less advanced, looks “cheap” in comparison to other social media sites, and has definitely lost the popularity it once had.
As I looked (or “creeped”) on random Myspace profiles, I couldn’t help but notice that I felt a little uneasy about them. It could just be that I’m bias and prefer Facebook to Myspace, but Myspace did not seem as friendly or approachable as I remembered it being. One thing that really stuck out to me was the “Details” section. I remember updating that section when I used Myspace, but I had always been cautious about what information I provided. Several of the profiles I looked at had very personal information in that section including, their income, height, ethnicity, education, and body type. In comparison to Facebook, there are more opportunities to describe yourself in great detail. Personally, I felt uncomfortable being exposed to so much information about a person I did not know. I think this example points towards the idea of “technopanic.” The fact that such personal information about strangers is so readily available, makes Myspace seem risky. It’s not that people aren’t able to display personal information elsewhere, but the fact that all the information is detailed and in one location that makes it appear as a website to be concerned about.
Other things I took note of were that profiles seemed almost tacky in that everyone had a different layout and background. Also, in contrast to Facebook, Myspace look like more of a way to display oneself rather than to interact with friends and family. You can’t tag someone in a status update and there is no constant “News Feed” to keep you updated on what your friends and family are doing.
Social networking sites, Myspace in particular, have faced criticism from parents due to the fact that their children are able to display anything and everything in one location. They can upload pictures of themselves, give status updates on what they are doing, post the city they live in, how old they are, and a detailed description of their body image and ethnicity. It is an easy way for the wrong people to get a hold of a lot of information, which is most certainly a parent’s reason for concern. If personal information is readily available, it would not take long before a stranger knows where this person lives, when (s)he likes, etc. It is this “technopanic” idea that is illustrated by Myspace. While there are most certainly ways to make personal information hidden from the general public, it is the idea that people, children and young adults especially, are more exposed to danger than was possible before social networking sites existed.
While there are most certainly worse examples of a technopanic, I found Myspace to be a bit of one. The amount of readily available information about a complete stranger does not make me feel safe. I was able to access too much information on random individuals, information that can give me an exact picture on what they look like, where they live, and what they are interested in. It is for this reason that I find Myspace to be a technopanic.
I can recall a time back in 8th grade when I would catch my mother peeking behind my back to check on who I was talking to on my Myspace profile. There were stories popping up about sex predators getting young girls to meet them, and concern grew greatly (see this archived article for more info http://tiny.cc/3y086 ).
I looked at 15 plus Myspace pages to see if these suspicions are still valid today. I did random searches by typing in partial celebrity/popular character names like “Ron Weas” and “Marylin M” and found that most times when I clicked a name to look at a profile it was private, maybe a sign that people are getting smarter about what they put online and who they show it to. When I was able to access profiles, I noticed that many had no information on it, as if someone had decided to make a Myspace profile, forgot about it, and left it as a mere imprint of themselves with no personality. Other profiles showed that peoples last log-ins were weeks, even months ago. One profile’s last comment had been posted over a year ago.
As far as perverts go, there were a few profiles that were sketchy. One man, age 51, had a friends list that was entirely female (most younger than him), but looked basically normal. A woman had a profile that was private, but her picture was of her behind. The most questionable profile I saw was a man’s profile, whose friend list was entirely female, many of whom were nude. He also had pictures he uploaded that he had taken of the backside of a girl, and pictures of other girls who didn’t seem to know they were in the spotlight.
I’m not going to say Myspace isn’t a place for predators, because people like those I’ve just listed are out there. But I don’t think we can assume Myspace is the only place predators lurk. When we put our information out there, or go out of our way to talk to strangers, and even MEET with them, we can’t believe it’s okay to have our guard down. There are strange people on the site, but there are also some very seemingly normal people, too.
And I don’t think blaming the site is the answer. I went on Myspace when I was younger, and I had the sense not to talk to strangers, and definitely not to meet up with them. I think parents who let their children use these sites need to keep watch. It may have been annoying, but knowing my mother would come in on occasion made me think about who I was talking to.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think Myspace needs to be seen as a strong threat. Not enough people access it like they used to. Compare the weekly or monthly log-ins on Myspace to the daily (sometimes several times in a day) log-ins onto Facebook and Twitter- it’s not the popular site it was about eight to ten years ago. Myspace in today’s world is taking up more web space than anything else.