BRB gotta get back to my real life—online

Oh, the days of MySpace. Thinking back on it now, I wouldn’t so much term it “like ghetto or whatever,” but rather a meeting place for middle school kids pretending to be much older than they are, scantily clad girls lookin’ for love (who are also more than likely jailbait), and bands hoping to ride out on the free music player—because really, tell me your opinion of a band isn’t knocked down a few notched when their only contact is through MySpace. I remember when MySpace was a breeding ground for scenesters: dyed jet black, two-tone, ironed flat hair, studded belts, skinny jeans, dinosaurs, pink bows and smoky cat eyes. I’m talking about the male population, too.

The Economist points out in a study that the lives we lead on the internet are more similar to the way we act in real life than were expected.

A generation of digital activists had hoped that the web would connect groups separated in the real world. The internet was supposed to transcend colour, social identity and national borders. But research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.

And to this I retort: Is it really that surprising? We already know that niche magazines statistically do better than their rapidly dying cousins, so it’s only natural to expect that though a milieu of information is available at our fingertips—that we, as humans, will naturally gravitate towards what is familiar and comfortable. Because let’s face it, actually exposing yourself to the unfamiliar requires work: the energy to want to look for something new as well as the energy required to retain that information.

While Facebook’s surge in immigrant population (the article uses Orkut as an example, a popular Brazilian social networking site) would seem to warrant social acceptance, the article looks at the site’s various methods of customization as a deterring factor.

Facebook and Twitter have been making attempts at bringing people from different ethnic backgrounds together under the tag of “decrease world conflict” “and triumph of humanity,” or whatever. That’s great, but like I said, what really matters is that is requires the expenditure or energy to make friends. I’m on Facebook and I’ve never even seen this “Peace on Facebook” app. And even if it is successful… will it really mitigate the problems that need to be solved right now? Perhaps these invisible friendships may influence world relations decades from now, but then again who is to say that people really take them seriously?

A big issue with MySpace was the contest to accrue as many “friends” as possible. Being on the Top 8 was a coveted position, especially on the page of someone with particular fame, like Raquel Reed or Audrey Kitching (who both used MySpace as a tool to advance their internet celebrity). On a friend count of 2,000, how many of them could the average person know, realistically? Probably 200, if that. Facebook paved the way by offering selectiveness and privacy, and the phrase, “I only add people I know” became the crusading motto for a good period of time. Whether an elitist view, or simply a desire to feel needed and special, both contributed to the death of MySpace, as the masses relinquished their busy layouts for the simplicity and privacy of Facebook. People don’t want to feel like they’re being collected to boost someone else’s internet popularity.

So I wonder if the attempts to bring people closer together by friending someone on the opposite side of the world will be successful. Perhaps touting friendship under the banner of world peace is what MySpace missed. Or maybe, we’re just closer conducting our lives entirely via the web.

Further reading:
Black People Internet and White People Internet Class Snobbery
Shai lays down the science on the Black People on Twitter Theory (“Its the nature of how we craft these environments to suit our core comforts and fine tune our twitter experiences.”)
The latest research on race and microblogging

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2 Responses to BRB gotta get back to my real life—online

  1. lew247 says:

    A well-written post. It illustrates some interesting (and funny) social networking behaviors/personalities.

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