I have some well-meaning friends who
try to convince me that MySpace isn't a cult. Of course, being MySpace
users themselves, I don't expect them to say otherwise. Though most
recent MySpace press has focused on sexual predators finding their
underage victims within its eerie canals, the frightening prospect
that this popular website is a breeding ground for an international
cult has been largely ignored up until now. Therefore, I feel it
a duty, as a member of the minority who does not belong, to speak
out and alert all to the harms of this service.
MySpace use begins innocently enough. Perhaps you join as a way
to stay in touch with old friends or those going off to college
but soon, you find yourself caught up in its cyber carnival ride,
enticed to stay on by its vibrant colors and the invented personalities
of its users. Estimates have claimed that over 50 million people
currently use MySpacethough this figure doesn't factor in
the millions who have stopped coming back or rejoined with a different
e-mail address, likely making the actual number of users much lower.
Still, one is hard-pressed to find a friend who has not succumbed
to the seductive temptress. Young adults, in particular, seem drawn
to this amazing simulation of a social life. It's gotten so widespread
that I'm afraid Joe McCarthy's ghost will start haunting me any
day, encouraging me to name names in my rebel anti-MySpace affiliation.
After all, if you're not with the MySpacers, you must be against
them. Yet I've managed to remain steadfast in my refusal to enter
its realm. Denying those who know meand especially those who
don'tthe opportunity to see invaluable lists of my favorite
music, movies, or books.
Aside from staying in touch with old friends, the hope of many
users is to build new friendships. In MySpace jargon, a "friend"
is the term for a fellow cultist. What MySpace calls a "friendship"
is little more than linking one profile to anotherand absolutely
no danger of being called on Saturday to come over and help move
some cyber-furniture. Clearly, this faux community is just a couple
of kool-aid packets away from Jonestown. It's a process that helps
create the illusion of a safe environment populated solely by fellow
fanatics or "friends
" despite the fact that this wide-branching
group may even grow to include friends of your ex's. I can't speak
for anyone else, but I'm not very comfortable with the idea an ex
spying on my current lifesomething MySpace virtually encourages.
The most damaging aspect of MySpace's insidious interlinking, however,
is not personal but employment related. It's a sad fact that what
goes around the internet will often come around to your employer's
inbox (Girls Gone Wilders beware); making it likely that he or she
may one day visit your MySpace page. Now think about this for a
second. Are you truly prepared to be judged on the basis of some
random comments typed in a silly green font with the latest Black
Eyed Peas song playing in the background? Even if you were just
in an admittedly elephunky mood that day and felt "My Humps" struck
a chord, is this the kind of thing you want to be seen by the person
you've just tried convincing you're a mature, respectable employee?
Only this January, a reporter for the Dover Post, Matt Donegan,
was fired for making some off-color comments on his MySpace page
he later claimed were meant as a joke. While Donegan is likely sheltering
some racist tendencies, the news hit close to home for those of
us who are purveyors of the art of sarcasm. It could be that Donegan
simply did not know which words to use, or how to treat his remarks
with the right amount of exaggeration. In any event, it points out
a problem with these public displays of information that MySpace
users trump so proudly.
The famous slogan for The New York Times is "All the news that's
fit to print." But on the internet, informationlike peoplecomes
fit, unfit, and every shape in between. There's rarely a line of
propriety drawn anywhere. MySpace gives users the illusion that
things are safe and sound, that their world is only who they choose
to include, and making its public arena feel entirely personal.
Here, perception becomes the problem. In a place with millions of
users, the world is not your oyster but your audience.
It's time we had a national intervention for MySpace users. This
cult has made addicts of its service, and forced them to stay up
late hours, constantly updating their profiles with recently watched
indie movies and self-portraits taken by cell phone via a bathroom
mirror. Let us save these poor souls from themselves. Cure these
egoes run amok, and focus attention on what MySpace truly isa
cult of the egocentric.