Let’s all go back to MySpace.


William Brafford

William Brafford grew up in North Carolina, home of the world's best barbecue, indie rock, and regional soft drinks. He just barely sustains a personal blog and "tweets" every now and then under the name @williamrandolph.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Will says:

    Wow – I saw this and immediately said to myself, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” It’s weird how social networks – which really don’t have any traditional status symbols (no way to show off your designer jeans online) – reflect preexisting social divides.Report

    • As a parent of a teenager – i can tell you that this snapshot is right on the money. My daughter actually refers to MySpace as ‘ghetto’. I could go on and on about the weirdness of these sites in general…the entire way kids interact is going down an unhealthy road in my opinion because of these tools.Report

    • Avatar William Brafford in reply to Will says:

      And it’s an interesting counter-narrative to the whole “the internet brings us together / only your interests matter” story.

      Also, the part about how Facebook and Twitter get more positive media attention than MySpace because that’s what reporters and producers are using was interesting.Report

  2. Avatar Chad says:

    A friend of mine used my computer to visit some of his friends’ MySpace pages. My anti-virus has a conniption fit. I’m not going back to MySpace.Report

  3. Avatar CaptBackslap says:

    If memory serves (it wasn’t mentioned in the article), a big part of the reason for Facebook’s early “hoity-toity” reputation was that you originally needed a .edu email address to sign up.

    That said, the evidence is starting to come in that general-purpose social networking is bad for mental health, which doesn’t surprise me at all. One thing that comes to mind is the recent study of college students in relationships, which found that half of them experienced increased jealousy after viewing their S.O.’s Facebook page.Report

    • Avatar William Brafford in reply to CaptBackslap says:

      Yeah, I picked up a Facebook account in one of the early waves of expansion when only certain .edu domains could get it. My friends at more exclusive schools had accounts before I did. And back in 2004, the exclusivity was a big point of appeal. Also, the design/layout was so much smoother than MySpace’s, and I never had problems with spam friend requests or phishing. The apps have made it a bit worse than it used to be, not to mention the twitter-imitation, but… yeah, they got their reputation targeting college students.

      One thing MySpace still has going for it is that musicians use it.Report

  4. Avatar JosephFM says:

    This also (deliberately, it seems) overlooks that MySpace allowed novice users far, far too much control over the layouts of their pages, such that a lot of people would copy lots of elements from different pre-coded layouts, wreaking havoc an page rendering. I still have friends on MySpace whose pages I can’t really access because they filled them with so much poorly-coded crap graphics and overlapping style sheets that it would crash my browser.

    And on top of that ads on MySpace were until very recently very obnoxious and poorly integrated into the site design, and you have a recipe for driving people away the second a more visitor-friendly alternative showed up. By the time the people at Fox figured this out it was already too late. But Boyd just dismisses this argument as irrelevant despite having just given evidence in support of this herself. Now obviously this is something that people who understand how websites work would value more than other people, but I still think it’s behind a lot of the migration that has happened.

    On top of the MySpace has in its favor a far superior music service – the best one on the entire internet (save perhaps YouTube), such that one could easily join and use Myspace solely for keeping up with favorite bands (which is, indeed, primarily how I use the site these days).

    But I think she’s also neglecting that part of being in high school is, basically, being abused by people who’ve had the ways in which they are “different” from you pounded into them – which is rather ironic given that the article is about social class.

    It’s not “fear of the other” if it’s fear that you’ll be taking another beating today, and it’s not condescention if the only think keeping you from hanging yourself is getting better grades than the thugs who are tormenting you.

    She writes “I highlight this because I think that we need to think twice when we dismiss or devalue popular “mainstream” trends and environments. The mainstream isn’t all from a privileged background, and the values they bring to the table may look quite different than ours.”

    But all values are not equal. Hard work and study are better values than gaining perceived power by assaulting people. The latter will put you in prison. But in my high school that’s exactly what her precious “non-privileged mainstream values” lead to. I can appreciate how hard life mush have been, but when you act like a punk you’re not doing yourself any favors. And that’s true no matter what language you speak at home or how much melanin is in your skin.

    And don’t get me started on the comments to that article. She warns people to be wary of condescention…ha!Report

    • Avatar William Brafford in reply to JosephFM says:

      Hadn’t seen those comments. I didn’t realize how much of AlterNet’s audience apparently hates Generation Y.

      I didn’t really construe “non-privileged mainstream values” as “beating people up,” or even make that connection. I was thinking more along the lines of different entertainment and leisure preferences. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been thinking on Noel Murray’s recent avclub post on the monoculture:

      “Last week the Top 10 Nielsen-rated TV shows included repeats–repeats, mind you–of NCIS and The Big Bang Theory. Yet if you perused the major entertainment news and review sources over the past month, you weren’t likely to find a whole lot of NCIS coverage. If anything, you’d think the whole country had gone Mad Men crazy, when in fact less than 2% of Americans watch the show on a regular basis… In the real world, the three-camera sitcom didn’t die just because TV critics said it had, and the viewing public hasn’t given up on procedurals just because people who write for magazines think they’re un-hip… Those who write that ‘monoculture’ is dead are describing their own relationship to that culture, more than anything. What they’re really saying is that they’re not venturing far enough outside their social circle to meet the people who are watching CBS.”

      There’s some good stuff between those ellipses, and before and after the quote as well, but that’s the idea. Tyler Perry might be another example of someone whose work is mega-successful and mainstream, yet not privileged. But I was pretty happy in high school, and I may be misunderstanding what you’re trying to say here.Report

      • You’re probably right that that wasn’t what she meant. She was probably warning against an entirely different type of elitism, like you say: that of the true elites against the middle-brow.

        It’s just that for me, when I was in high school, I associated – perhaps unfairly – the cultural hegemony of Eminem, 50 Cent, Korn, Ja Rule, etc. with the actual, deplorable conditions of my school, and of some of my classmates. I’m basically making the same argument Obama did in his school speech, that slacking off and macho posturing aren’t going to get you anywhere, and I feel that that kind of nihilism was a really integral part of the mainstream culture of my school. So I took an elitist attitude entirely defensively, as a coping mechanism – one that I have since relaxed. Being a teenager this of course extended to aesthetic/leisure-related things, and I do realize in retrospect how much of it is indeed coded “white” (Jersey emo bands, etc.), if not really the kind of “elite” taste as something like Mad Men or Animal Collective today.

        But I still swear to this day that it was not one motivated by racism, or even really classism exactly. I felt legitimately threatened by some of my fellow students, because I might end up with a black eye over the smallest slight to the wrong person. And I still have trouble untangling how my high school experience is tied up with issues of race and class, being that I am in fact from a relatively privileged background but attended an “inner city” school, and what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote here is definitely at play:

        The worst part of going to an inner-city school, for me, wasn’t the teachers, or the schools themselves, but the way violence hung in the air, and made people crazy. The atmosphere of violence, the sense that it can always happen, that there are no safe places, even in school, alters everything. It changes how you walk home, who you hang out with, how you dress, where you sit at lunch, to, ultimately, how focused you are on your studies.


      • Also thanks for that link, you’re right, that was a really good article, and a good point about Tyler Perry, etc. What strikes me about most of those “popular yet not privileged” examples, actually, is how generally conservative they are in a cultural sense: country music, moralistic movies about black families, a crime procedural in a military setting.Report