Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Help! I am Addicted to MySpace!

What started out as a harmless foray into what I incorrectly thought was a bed of teenage angst, party invitations and sexual overtures, has become a minor addiction. I have become addicted to Myspace.com - the social networking site.

My sister and her husband and some of their friends signed up at myspace and she asked me to join as well as it would be "fun." The service is free to anyone that wants to join. I checked out her profile there as well as the profiles of some of her friends and I had to admit, that the profiles were, in fact, pretty entertaining. She almost had me sold on the idea. I then browsed for other people within 5 miles of my zip code who were between the ages of 30 and 40 and was presented with 2,065 profiles -- and I live in a sparsely populated suburb. When I ran the search with the zip code from my previous apartment in Boston, I was presented with 3,000 profiles -- the search feature caps out at 3,000. So much for being for teenagers. Then I heard that the director, Kevin Smith, was addicted to myspace and that he had over 50,000 friends on the site (these days, that number is closer to 96,000 friends). One night, I heard him on late-night television saying that for fun these days, he sits at his computer and hangs out on myspace. Now, for me, that was quite the endorsement, as I admire Kevin Smith and his work. He and I are the same age and I happen to like a lot of the same things that he seems to enjoy. My husband and I already spend a lot of time in front of our computers for our entertainment. Why not add an additional source of entertainment to the mix?

I was pretty convinced that it would be an interesting endeavor at the very least. My husband and I got ourselves hooked up at the site and promptly put up our profiles.

People put up a bunch of information about themselves on their profiles - occupation, education, location, likes, dislikes, sometimes pictures, polls, etc. - and then they link their profiles to the profiles of their friends. Once friends with someone, you can leave notes and make comments in a section of their profile specifically reserved for just that. There is even a place there for members to post blog entries on their profiles (which I don't use because I blog here instead). There are also several groups that people can join with full discussion boards as well as an email feature within myspace. The site can send emails to an outside email address whenever someone posts to your profile, wants to be your friend or sends you a message so you know when you should check in. You can send bulletins that go to all of your friends on the site at once so party invitations and other information is quickly disseminated. It's a neat little package of services - and, though it isn't very well done - the interface is a tad clumsy and the servers aren't the greatest - the size of the community makes it appealing.

Some people use sites like myspace for finding prospective dates. Some people use myspace for keeping in touch with friends in different parts of the world. Musicians, comedians, DJs and actors use myspace to interact with their fan bases. We, like many others, use it to swap amusing or shocking photos or animations with one another. We also use it to read the profiles of the many other denizens of the myspace community that have made their profiles public for anyone to see. I like reading other people's profiles and reading the comments that other people have left for them. There are profiles on myspace of people who I would probably never meet in a lifetime in person: People who live in places that I don't visit much and who are in professions or social circles with which I have no contact. It's interesting to see what they are into and what their friends are into. I like finding funny or shocking things to post on my friends' profiles. It's a lesson in sociology at your fingertips.

Now that we've had myspace profiles for about a month, I find that I too have become somewhat addicted. I find myself browsing the profiles of people who live in my neighborhood and in other neighborhoods in which I have lived. I have run searches on my graduating classes from high school and college to see who shows up. It's all pretty interesting. I'm a real party-pooper though with my need for anonymity (see my previous post "The Fear of Being Me") - nobody from any of my schools would find me by running a search - and if they did, they wouldn't know who I was as I have no pictures of myself on my profile. Oh well. The entertainment value of the site is high.

Even our dog has gotten into the act. I noticed that some profiles on myspace were those of dogs and that other dogs were their friends. Some of these dogs had hundreds and hundreds of friends. Granted, my dog sits on my lap a lot when I sit at the computer, but cyber friends are not something that I think she grasps too well. I threw up a profile for her anyway just to see why other dog owners bothered. I joined a couple of dachshund groups and invited a few other dachshunds that seemed to get a lot of traffic at their profiles (and who looked like good doggie citizens) to be her friends and then posted a cute picture of my dog in their comment section with a "thank you" for being her friend. It's been under a month and she has 57 friends -- with not a lot of effort on my part. People stumble onto her profile when looking at others and then if they like her, will invite her to become a friend. Once that happens, I post her thank you and picture on their profile and the cycle repeats. It's pretty amusing actually. The other dogs have pretty cool profiles. Some have full slideshows of themselves and their assorted real life friends and family. There is pretty good advice to be had in some of the groups from other dog owners as well. The other dogs and their owners are a pretty friendly lot, actually, and send nice little messages like "Have a Nice Week" regularly. I think our dog will keep her own profile on myspace. She has a happy little profile when you're in the mood for that.

Unlike my dog, I do not have many friends. I either personally know the people that are my friends or they are bands or celebrities like Kevin Smith (But of course I am one of the 96,000 and growing!) Very few of my friends in real life have myspace accounts yet and I don't think that many of them ever plan on having one. They seem to either think that it is for teenagers like I did or they think that it is just garbage and people trying to get dates. When I tell someone that I have a profile on myspace, I get strange looks and they don't ask much about it. That's all fine. More friends on myspace will just make the addiction worse.

It's not a bad site. It's actually a lot of fun -- and unfortunately, I have been spending a lot of time perusing its pages lately. I can think of worse things to do -- but I can also think of better things to do. I am trying to slowly break the need to peruse myspace or look for funny stuff to put on someone's profile. It's only been a month, and I feel as though I have been sucked in. I feel addicted because I feel the need to check my profile daily to see if anyone put anything funny on it -- but then I get caught up looking at other people's profiles. Once you sit down to look at people's profiles, hours can pass and you will not have noticed. Others can let the comments go for weeks before checking. My goal is to not feel the need to look at it more than once a week. That seems like a healthy goal. It is definitely much more entertaining than TV these days though. OK, well maybe twice a week. We'll see...

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