MySpace, teens, and the (non) death of the blogosphere

I had dinner with “Jeremy Wright”:http://www.ensight.org last night to discuss our upcoming redesign of “b5media”:http://www.b5media.com. Over the course of our conversation, the topic of MySpace briefly came up. It’s a topic that’s popping up with greater and greater frequency.

Jeremy wrote a “piece”:http://www.ensight.org/archives/2006/02/21/myspace-is-the-new-blogosphere/ about why MySpace scares the crap out of him a couple of weeks ago. His points are mainly valid (MySpace spells the death of the blogosphere), but ultimately I disagree with him.

MySpace is undoubtedly cool. If I were a teenager I’d be all over it. It’s an amazing way to connect and hang out with friends, find new music, pose, preen, and generally be cool. But I’m not a teenager (despite my brain’s insistence that I’m 18). The very things that make MySpace cool to an 18 year old are annoying to me.

Having been a teenager, I feel I have some authority to speak on the dynamic interests of a maturing human. Sure, this teen cohort are growing up with MySpace, Facebook, et al. But as they mature, I believe they will want to strike out from the crowded confines and safety of similarity to the riskier and more rewarding solo sites that make up the blogosphere. I don’t see MySpace killing the blogosphere. I see it as a breeding ground for new bloggers (or whatever we’ll be calling ourselves at the time).

Think about it: this cohort lives online, and lives in text. Right now, group membership is incredibly important. But give that same group five to ten years, and the need to be a member will be replaced with the desire to be an individual.

MySpace doesn’t scare me. It does the exact opposite. I just wish it had been around 20 years ago.

11 thoughts on “MySpace, teens, and the (non) death of the blogosphere”

  1. Maybe MySpace wouldn’t be as cool to you if you found that your 11 year old daughter was posing partially nude on it. As were her other 11 year old friends. Parental controls were in place, before you give me that argument. But children sneak and they lie and MySpace is a pedophile’s dream.

    I’m not saying the site isn’t a nice little tool for a teenager but more than half of the members there are quite younger than they say. That is what worries me.

    Death of the blogosphere? No. Death of innocence? Perhaps.

  2. If the blogosphere can survive as is, I do agree that those most interested will move to that space. However, with any trend (and citizen online media is at least partly a trend), it will fade.

    I believe there will always be blogging, but it will change and thin out as many begin to realize that management of a blog may not be worth the time if readership or revenue does not pan out. I simply use my blog to practise my writing and am not too consumed with traffic.

    However, the use of community sites for kids does concern me for another reason.

  3. Christine: Oh how horrible. I have two daughters, both young at the moment, but that will change in time. So the question becomes how do we, as “adults” keep these sites open and accessible to those for whom they’re aimed, while keeping kids out?

    Clearly just asking for a birthdate isn’t going to work. Nor will requiring a credit card, as most of the teenagers won’t have one.

    Perhaps the only way around this is to make the site owners responsible for the behavior of their members.

    The danger here of course is that this will stifle creativity.

    I guess my solution would be to put the computer in the kitchen. My kids will undoubtedly hate me for it.

  4. I love myspace and that is something that has just come about. I loathed it for the longest time. One night though I got on, and browsed my high school’s alumni and was able to reconnect with old best friends, and spy on others (great for the gossip in me :P)

    I think myspace gets more of a bad reputation that it should. Sure, it could be (and is I suppose) a pedophile’s dream . . . but so could any of the community sites out there – livejournal, blurty, xanga, and the list can go on for ages.

    I’m not sure how it really effects the blogoshpere though. Due to the huge amount of people there I think it would be hard for any true blogger to stand out, as most of the focus is laid upon “celebrity” blogs (real or not – and it amazes me how many people think that some of these people are the real celebs and not some faker, or publicist).

    I think anyone with real potential, interest and something important to say will realize that myspace is a crock of an excuse for blogging and move to their own space (no pun intended, truly).

    re: the statistics – “There are more posts per day being made on MySpace than on all blogs combined (about 1.5M vs about 1.4M).” But what are the quality of the posts – and is anyone reading? “OMG me n britney got lyk soooo ttly wasted n we r guna do it agin.” That’s not blogging.

    As for preventing young children from showing off the goods – and regulating member activities – I don’t think the blame should be laid upon the site owners. I think if they put forth everything they can to try to make it a safe space, than they shouldn’t be liable for the choices their members make. (And let’s face it, 12-13 year old are more than old enough to make smart desicions). I think ultimately that the responsibility falls on the parent, just as it would in the real world. I don’t think people should be afraid to create great websites because parent’s aren’t watching their children.

    And to contradict myself, of course parent’s can not be there every second of the day – such is life. My children are very small still, but what I can do is try to supervise as much as possible without infringing their individual space, and just make sure that I educate them on what can happen out there and how to best protect themselves.

    Wow, that was way longer than intended.

  5. GeoCities was the death of innocence. UseNet was the death of innocence. Chat rooms were the death of innocence. Email was the death of innocence. Web cams were the death of innocence. It is sort of like the liver of Prometheus that grew back every night so an eagle could eat it the following day.

    Turn the router off when you’re not around. And like Peter says, put the computer out in the open where you can see it.

    ‘Parental controls were in place for the site’ – but obviously not in the household. The internet is not Disneyland. Do these same people have the V-Chip on for their televisions?

    Any technology that allows instant global self-expression is going to have it’s unsavory side. We live in a culture (in N. America) that worships self-exposure, narcissism and unmitigated ego – these developments are not suprising. Raise your kids to be skeptics. MySpace will peter out soon enough and the next big WTF-LOL-w00t-hawt-OMG-sphere will sprout.

    I can’t wait to deny my children internet access for transgressions. 😉

  6. Lindsey: bang on.

    Andy: like you, I look forward to the day when I can say with a devilish twinkle in my eye “no net for you!”. That will have a far, far greater impact than “no tv”.

  7. Myspace is great if your a narcissist whore with nothing better to do than go on and on about what you had or wish you had for breakfast two months ago and make fake friends and name drop. Those are all things I wish I was doing 20 years ago (we must be the same age). The only thing I see it as good for is to weed out the assholes and to determine who is interested in real friendship, as opposed to hard-stroking their ego (or worse) or destroying someone else’s. I need that like I need a hole in the head. I can’t think of anything lamer than myspace and what it turns people, young and old, into. It’s like a boys and girls club with an unocked door to a strip club passing out invitations for the show, which is inappropriate in my book. But then again my social and communal concerns would have broader reach than my puny limp dick, if I had one.

  8. As this Yahoo story indicates, there is much more of this likely to continue. Still, you can’t blame MySpace. They are no more guilty than the city who builds a public park. We can’t lose sight of the fact that bad people will always do bad things.

    (PRWEB) June 20, 2006 — While the recent attention surrounding the arrest of several cyber-predators stalking victims on MySpace.com has prompted parents to be more vigilant in policing their children’s on-line activities, not everyone has become appropriately frightened.
    ADVERTISEMENT

    Information on a new case illustrates how some parents continue to harbor the illusion that their children are smart enough or careful enough to resist the wiles of would-be predators — a mistake that could cost children their innocence or even their lives.

    Sometime after 10 PM on May 26th, “Helen T.” of Valdosta, GA saw the familiar sapphire glow of a computer monitor spilling through the cracked door to her daughter’s room. The 14 year old had been spending an inordinate amount of time online lately, and not all it innocent, as her email and chat history would soon indicate.

    Her mother, attempting to reverse the trend, intended to admonish the child and send her to bed. The horror she felt after finding an empty room is difficult to imagine.

    “My first reaction was, of course to call the police. But I was sure they’d be a long time responding and I couldn’t just do nothing and wait,” Helen explained.

    In her excitement to go meet her new “friend”, Helen’s daughter had left open the browser window displaying the two-hour plus conversation she had had with what turned out to be a convicted pedophile. As Helen read through the two hours of shocking chat, she saw that the person on the other end had asked her daughter to call him and posted a cell phone number. The police later told her that although a bad move for a criminal, such actions smack of the desperation that compels these worst of society’s rogues.

    As she waited for the police to arrive, Helen frantically searched the Internet for a source to identify the owner of the number. Overwhelmed with the typical search engine return of entirely too much information, it took the overwhelmed mother of two nearly 40 minutes of wading through gimmicks and assorted cons before she finally found reverse lookup source that appeared to provide actual reverse cell number lookup results.

    Helen said that most of what she found were companies wanting to sell her some sort of software she could download and use to “become a detective” or “find anybody.” The market was flooded by such ads to the point that she barely found what she wanted which was simply a cell phone lookup service.

    After locating the site Cellulartrace.com, Helen frantically emailed the company about the time-frame on their rush service. The expedited service that has only been available again for just over a month is advertised as returning the phone search results within several hours. Being aware of the dangerous situation Helen’s daughter was in, the company agreed to perform the search immediately.

    Within 20 minutes, and still long before the police showed up, Cellulartrace called Helen with the cellular lookup information. When the police arrived, Helen told them she thought she knew where her daughter was.

    Despite the incomprehensible horror she certainly felt, the most recent MySpace saga ended as well as did the cross-planet adventures of Katherine Lester who ran away to the Middle East to meet the object of her online Romeo earlier this month. Police located Helen’s daughter at the address the skip tracing investigation company provided. Authorities say the minor child was swimming with the middle-aged man in his unlit pool when they arrived. Initially, police cautiously informed the child’s family that she was “unharmed.”

    Describing the quasi-abduction investigation as pending, police did not release the name of the man involved. However, an investigator close to the case stated, on condition of anonymity, that the preliminary evidence combined with his past criminal history indicated “a pattern of predatory behavior.”

    It is unclear at this time who made initial contact with whom, and whether the minor child had contact with the adult on prior occasions. Evidence in the investigation will certainly include information on the cell phone number provided to the minor as well as email and messenger style communications between the two. It is also thought that the adult subject’s PC will be searched for additional incriminating information should sexual assault, attempted assault or any other related charges be filed. There appeared to be at least the probability of charges stemming “from some omissions” regarding the subject’s sexual offender registration, the source said.

    Police were thrilled that the child’s mother took the initiative to order the cell phone reverse lookup information from the online vendor, stating that “Time is a commodity we simply don’t have in child abduction cases. If we didn’t have an address, this may well have ended badly. Whoever obtained this information for her likely saved a life tonight.”

    The investigative cellular number research site the information was provided by specializes in cell phone number trace information for a variety of skip tracing and address-locate applications.

    Cellulartrace.com spokesman Mark McAlpin responded to our email about this reverse lookup order stating his relief that the child was located.

    “We are thrilled that this child is OK. We get several urgent requests a year on situations similar to this. If the info comes in during office hours, we drop everything and focus on that search.”

    The industry has taken some flack the past few months on alleged privacy concerns. Perhaps recent events like the Jay Coffield and John Wentworth arrests in Naperville, IL and the Jessica Liccar case and this one will illustrate the vital role private sector investigators play in discovering the truth. In any case, we are glad to played some role in returning the girl to safety.”

    The arrests McAlpin referred to were charges of child solicitation filed against two Naperville, IL men recently in connection with their alleged luring of children for probable sexual exploitation or assault using online chatting through the ever-popular MySpace.com.

    While it appears there is a growing trend among cyber-stalkers, visitors to the site have only increased. MySpace.com received a staggering 50 million visitors in May.

    Authorities and investigators alike warn parents to be mindful of their children’s online activities and to be less concerned about a child’s privacy expectations.

    Source: http://cellulartrace.com
    ###

    Children First
    Jennifer Caldwell

  9. I have a myspace and in fact love it.There IS security on there that your 11,12,13..etc year old children CAN and SHOULD set up to prevent anyone that doesnt know their last name or email address to even view their page without the child adding them as a friend first.And as far as the revealing photos go,Myspace DOES in fact delete them if they are inappropriate.It may take them a while to notice it,as you would expect because of the population of myspace((87,678,930))and growing by the minute.I just think its wrong to have such a negative outlook on something you more than likely havent even tried for yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *