This morning MySpace was no. 7 in the trending now on my Yahoo page. MySpace? I haven’t heard from them in forever. So, I went to read some of the articles.
The article from Fortune Magazine was titled MySpace’s doom was in its DNA. I must admit that the reason I got a computer in the first place was because of MySpace. Up until then I was a technophobic quasi-luddite. I had read WAY too many conspiracy theory books and was still in my bar codes are the mark of the beast and the internet is satan phase.
I liked MySpace because of it’s creative aspect. It’s where I learned html and how to make gifs. I got tips and tricks from people that I had friended. Later on, I was one of the people giving out the tips.
In his BusinessWeek article, Felix Gillette argues that MySpace users’ ability to tweak their profile designs was one of the site’s “first breakthroughs.” The developers had accidentally allowed users to insert HTML into their profiles, “allowing them to play around with the background colors and personalize their pages, leading to the site’s kaleidoscopic, techno-junkyard aesthetic, which became its trademark.”
For the site’s users at the time, this was a feature. For users who might otherwise have signed up, it was a bug. MySpace has almost willfully discouraged older people, smarter people, and more mainstream people from joining. Facebook, meanwhile, has kept tight control over its design, which has remained free of blinking graphics and gaudy color schemes. Your elderly aunt could join it if she wanted to. And as time went on, she did.
I was one of those people with the blinking graphics and gaudy color scheme. I would add, update, and alter my page all of the time, and yes, there were times when it looked like a cross between Las Vegas, Oompa Loompa land and a really bad acid trip… but I didn’t care. I was being creative. I was discovering new techniques and increasing my digitally artistic repoirtoire.
Some people didn’t like it. I would get comments about the flashing pictures or about how ‘busy’ my page was. At first I took umbrage. I would respond back with, “It’s called MYSPACE, not YOURSPACE. If you don’t like what’s on my page then unfriend and block me.”
People kept insisting that I ‘tone it down’, and after a while I did. I just got tired of the comments.
One day I signed up for Facebook. I had heard about it and decided to investigate. One I had signed up I spent hours trying to figure out how to change the page. I wanted to add my own flair. I tried to upload gifs and much to my chagrin the pictures just would not move.
What? Facebook doesn’t support gifs? What kind of crap is that?
No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my Facebook page to be anything other that a big white page with nothing but text. How boring!
Once I finally admitted ‘I can’t figure out how to tweak this thing’ defeat, I quit going on Facebook. It wasn’t until I started getting friend requests from family members and old schoolmates that I started back up with it. It was still boring. I didn’t want to talk about what I did today or ask people how they were doing. I wanted to create.
The differences between MySpace and Facebook reminded me of that episode of the Twilight Zone called Number 12 Looks Just Like You.
Synopsis (from wikipedia):
In a future society, all young adults go through a process known as “the Transformation,” in which each person’s body and face are changed to mimic a physically attractive design chosen from a small selection of numbered models. The process gives everyone a beautiful appearance, slows deterioration due to age and extends a person’s lifespan, and makes the recipient immune to any kind of disease.
The motive of the Transformation is social harmony. According to Professor Sig, a psychologist with the Transformation service, “Years before, wiser men than I . . . saw that physical unattractiveness was one of the factors that made men hate, so they charged the finest scientific minds with the task of eliminating ugliness in mankind.”
18-year-old Marilyn Cuberle decides not to undergo the Transformation, seeing nothing wrong with her unaltered appearance. Nobody else can understand Marilyn’s decision, and those around her are confused by her displeasure with the conformity and shallowness of contemporary life. Her “radical” beliefs were fostered by her now-deceased father, who gave Marilyn banned books and came to regret his own Transformation years earlier (we learn that he committed suicide upon the loss of his identity).
Despite continued urging from family, doctors, and her best friend, Marilyn is still adamant about refusing the operation. She insists that the leaders of society don’t care whether people are beautiful or not, they just want everyone to be the same. Her pleas about the “dignity of the individual human spirit” and how “when everyone is beautiful, no one will be” have no impact. After being driven to tears by the inability of anyone to understand how she feels, she is put through the procedure and (like all the others) is enchanted with the beautiful result.
Dr. Rex, who operated on Marilyn, comments about how some people have problems with the idea of the Transformation but that “improvements” to the procedure now guarantee a positive result, thus indicating that there may be modifications made to the mind as well. Marilyn reappears, looking and thinking exactly like her best friend Valerie. “And the nicest part of all, Val,” she gushes, “I look just like you!” The last shots are of her, admiring herself in the mirror and smiling.
I saw the episode for the first time when I was about 11 or 12. I totally related to Marilyn. I hadn’t read 1984 yet, so it was my introduction to the idea of totalitarianism and conformity.
I had experienced the comformity issue somewhat. As a kid, I had been pressured into Little League. I was no good at baseball. I was placed in right field and never caught a ball that came my way. I struck out every single time I got up to bat. I would walk up to the plate and the other players and parents in the bleachers would groan.
Why was I being made to play a game that I obviously wasn’t any good at or had no interest in?
Then there was the issue of my clothes. I wanted to wear the brightest colors. I wanted to wear the bell bottoms with the biggest flair, the hip huggers with the hippest hug, the shirt with the most psychedelic and trippy design and the widest belt available. I was told by my parents that people would think I was weird. I was also told the same thing when I acted certain ways.
When I wanted to practice twirling my sister’s baton I was confined to the basement. I had learned very quickly that doing so in the front yard would result in admonishment, strange looks and the occasional ‘sissy’ comment.
I eventually gave up the baton and turned to juggling. It was considered more appropriate and masculine. When I practiced juggling, I didn’t have to hide in the basement and people didn’t laugh or look at me funny. I remember thinking that they were both skills that involved manual dexterity and coordination, so “why should it matter which one I choose to do”?
Reading that article about MySpace this morning left me feeling sad. MySpace used to be fun. I lost interest somewhat after they changed it to be more like Facebook. Some of the HTML features were disabled. I could no longer be as creative as before.
I don’t know how much longer MySpace will last. I guess it doesn’t really matter since it is no longer the way that it was when I joined.
For me MySpace was about originality. Facebook has the look and feel of conformity. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular. Maybe everybody wants to look like Number 12.
When I went to the blogging section of freshly pressed, this was the title of the blog post that came right after this one.
Google Launches Google+, a Facebook Look-Alike.