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i need my space
a potentially unwise criticism of social networking sites
by joe procopio (@jproco)
8.2.06
pop culture


No. I don't MySpace. I don't want to be your pal or buddy or whatever designation it's using for its viral market top spin. I don't want to browse for men or women between the ages of 18 and 35. I don't care what your friends say about you, and I don't care that you don't care what your friends say about you.

A lot of you are thinking one of two things right now. Either I'm biting the hand that feeds me and should probably be on board figuring out how to surf this new wave of DIY media or I'm just a miserable bastard who's horked off because those MySpace guys are billionaires and I'm still trying to figure out how to turn pointed reflection and comedic gold into a global phenomenon.

It's actually a little of both -- and thank you for the comedic gold thing. I appreciate it.

The truth is, Intrepid Media is the artsy chick with the overalls and glasses who's constantly in the shadows, like Winona Ryder without the looks or all the stealing. MySpace, she's the hot blonde cheerleader chick with the cool car and impeccable fashion sense.

And that's exactly the perception I want.

Because make no mistake, she's a big slut.

The difference, the big difference, is purpose of content. For someone trying to paint the web with a bit of creativity and lot of entertainment value across the shared spectrum of content creation, I see MySpace as a deterrent. It's a "barf here" alternative to creativity, with easy tools to allow you to point at things others have done that you identify with -- songs, videos, movies -- along with a blog to churn out insight into yourself.

In other words, it's like 20 million bad blind dates.

And don't get me started on blogs. Before some jackass actually coined the term, it was called "conversation at a party that you immediately want to walk away from." For the love of all that's holy, if I want to know what someone had for breakfast, I'll sift through their garbage like a normal creepy scumbag.

The modern-day blog has evolved into an excuse to say "look at me" while using as many words as possible. Not that I'm totally against this, mind you, but the main thing I tell writers, whether it be for Intrepid Media or otherwise, is make sure what you're writing is of value to the people reading it. Maybe, just maybe, if you're Tim Burton, and if I have a theory that what you eat for breakfast has something to do with how you're able to capture the things you visualize, and if there's some scientific proof to back that theory up, then maybe I care what you had for breakfast.

Or perhaps if it's funny, like maybe you had a bowlful of rainbows and a glass of malaise, then maybe I care.

Otherwise, I do not.

The viral output of this MySpace mess, and poor Rupert Murdoch, you're about to figure this out, is a perverted popularity. With no quality control and no purpose, a car crash is just as valid a work of art as Michelangelo's David, the difference being that I can walk into the Louvre and see David with no 45-minute wait for the rubberneckers to gawk while simultaneously cursing the other rubberneckers in front of them.

But as a valid means of expression, a car crash is not sustainable. Grow a thick skin, get accustomed to the shock, and guess what? It's old. It's over. It's been-there-done-that. It's the freakin' Macarena.

Try getting one of those started at a wedding these days. Go ahead. Try. I swear to God I'll bring you down with one of those illegal horse collar tackles.

If the bride doesn't get to you first.

The foregone conclusion is that now one of your MySpace friends can be a movie, a song, a television show. That's right (according to Wired anyway). So this weekend, I'll get together with Scott, Greg, Pete, Mike, and Sony Pictures' Little Man for a riotous night of drinking and texting.

It'll be AWESOME!

See through that veiled attempt at humor. What I'm getting at is the fact that it's no longer about taking advantage of the network to better/further one's self. It's about bastardizing the viral concept to get as many people to watch trailers from the very media conglomerates that are keeping old media in charge.

This is supposed to be about fulfilling a lifelong dream of shooting your screenplay on 3-chip digital cameras and building enough momentum to force a next step, not Tom Cruise's $20-million payday being accepted on the same utopian creative scale.

THE INTERNET IS FOR US! NOT THEM!

And as long as we keep touting MySpace as DIY media for the masses, when it's basically just an ad revenue generator built on the backs of its membership (Hello, AOL? We did this already, right?), the difference between the next potential Clerks and some idiot jumping up and down and lip-synching to "Baby Got Back" will remain a blurry line as, thanks to said lack of quality control and said perverted popularity, both will deserve to share the same web space as Superman Returns.

Now I'll throw it all overboard and, as much as it pains me to do this, tell you that I need MySpace, I will probably join it and others like it, and I will probably weep while uploading all the relevant information about myself that you need to know in order to get to the creative nougat center that is me.

Why?

Because it has changed the playing field. It is Internet 2.0. Old media found a back door to keep new media at bay, and even though I know that the next big thing will probably not come from MySpace, I have to be there. It's like calling myself the President of Intrepid Media because only a handful of people will get it when I call myself Der Kommisar.

The shame of it is those are the exact people I'm trying to reach.



ABOUT JOE PROCOPIO

Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio

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COMMENTS

robert melos
8.2.06 @ 1:08a

I personally like starting blogs on most of the 'blog sites' just so I can point people back to stuff I write here on IM and on other sites. In some ways I view sites like MySpace, and BlogIt, and many others as Internet billboards where I can maybe convert a surfer to a fan of my work. I'm into shallow self-promotion. I also view it like fishing. You cast your line and hope for a hit.

alex b
8.2.06 @ 5:27a

I like MySpace and Friendster as a means of letting friends I've know where I'm at and what I'm up to now and finding long-lost old friends. However, beyond the aforementioned personal relationship purposes, Friendster seems benign compared to MySpace, which seems like a rolling machine promoting anything and everything. My musician/producer roommate uses it to promote his indie bands and musical projects. I'm also down with finding out about new bands, or being asked by writers to form or join an online group.

Yet there are times when it's annoying- I get the equivalent of junk mail from would-be celebutantes, who send me friend requests just to promote him or herself as a next big thing on the basis of nothing. I also get weirded out at random folk like Jeremy Jackson desperately hustling for a post-"Baywatch" career and popularity, and in the process of promoting that cause, revealing himself to seem like some druggie car accident devoted to the E! Channel. I feel strange at being asked to look at this stuff, and like there's a darker, voyeuristic aspect going on.

The original purposes of social networking sites are still worthy ones. I'm happy to keep learning about talented and creative people who are in the shadows at the moment, but I'm just as happy to stay away from the vapid, useless, and altogether scary aspects.

[edited]

erik myers
8.2.06 @ 8:43a

Der Kommisar! I bet more people get that than they'd care to admit.

I think one of the reasons that MySpace is so successful is that it's target market is really 10 - 18 yrs. old. Those are the ones that drive the MTV culture and what their parents buy for them, what music is coming off the shelves, what teen movie is most popular, etc., etc. The Gen X and Gen Y crowds are already too cynical, and apathetic (and already on Friendster, and have seen the rise and fall of sixdegrees.com).

I have a MySpace account exactly because I like indie rock, and for some reason indie rock has decided that this is the best content delivery out there. (Why? Free.) But you won't catch me putting anything about me up there.

Alex - I love the word celebutantes.

dan gonzalez
8.2.06 @ 9:58a

I could be wrong, but I don't think it's Internet 2.0. Of course, I didn't think that the blogosphere was Internet 2.0 either. It's nothing new other than the gimmick that your forced to join for free (and thus become part of the marketing ploy) to see any of the content.

So it's another ruse like blogging that just add to the detritus on the web without being the least bit revolutionary. Maybe 1 or 2 lucky people in a million get rich doing it, but that's it.

juli mccarthy
8.2.06 @ 10:32a

I freakin' hate MySpace. I know a lot of indie artists/writers who use it for promotion, but - and this may be related to the fact that I am old - it just feels like such a NOISY site. Every time I go there I feel like I have downloaded a migraine.

louise arnold
8.2.06 @ 11:51a

Okay, I will admit it. I myspace. (See, I even promoted it to a verb). I only joined up because another author I know did, and I'm a closet competitive monkey who hates to be left behind. Now I really quite like it, partly because I enjoy being able to listen to new music and partly because I'm deeply rubbish at staying in touch and myspace makes it a lot easier. There are some pages out there that make your bum cheeks clench with the sheer visual horror/social awkwardness of it all though. It's a bit like the party you go to when you're 14, where everyone is trying to be dead cool, there's a girl in the corner trying to impress people by acting like a prozzie, and a fifty year old guy has gate crashed and is trying to act like he belongs. I'm chronically aware of how old and uncool myspace makes me feel, and yet I still like it. Peverse.

brian anderson
8.2.06 @ 2:02p

I recognize that MySpace is the thing to do, especially for the indie artists (whether authors or musicians), but unless it's changed recently, the copyright policy sets off warning bells with me.

brian anderson
8.2.06 @ 2:08p

Actually, looking at it now, it seems they've clarified copyright policy since the last time I looked at it. You're still giving them a royalty-free license to repost, modify, and distribute content (and it's specified as intended for other Internet outlets, although I don't think the license is *limited* to that), but it is specified as terminating if you delete the content.

alex b
8.2.06 @ 3:27p

Hmmmm. MySpace looks like Sundance- a place intended for indie art and culture, but full of corporate sponsors and habitual party crashers. To borrow a point from Erik, it really does seem to be driven by the young MTV crowd- the same age group so weaned on reality shows and bad drama that they consider it a validating thing to go posting anything about themselves with "look at me! look at me!" in mind. (Hurray. We now have an online Z-grade yearbook.)

sarah ficke
8.2.06 @ 5:37p

I read about the music licensing thing - they have rights to use it on Myspace stuff, but no further rights over it.

brian anderson
8.2.06 @ 8:11p

You're totally right, Sarah. The policy seems much more clear and specific than I recall from when I read it several months ago. Perhaps they've clarified it or, more likely, my memory is faulty.

sarah ficke
8.3.06 @ 8:40a

They just changed it recently because some musician (Billy Bragg?) read the fine print and took issue with it.

jason gilmore
8.3.06 @ 6:25p

Good piece. As you know, I have a blog and I sometimes use the blog feature on MySpace for momentary thoughts that are probably not important enough to make my regular blog. I was reluctant to move into the blog world, but mostly did it as a venue for my photographs. I was slow to move into MySpace but mostly did it because so many people around kept browbeating me about it. Now I love them both.

If anything, between Intrepid, Blogspot and MySpace, it will keep me writing more than my lazy rear end would write if unprovoked, and that's good. I think it's best to use the medium as it benefits you best. Does MySpace level the playing field a little too much? Probably, but we were all complaining that the playing field wasn't level in the beginning. Be careful what you ask for.

I was thinking about when "I Love the 2000s" comes out and some celebrity's gonna be on there like, "Dude, remember MySpace? It was awesome. You could have, like, 4, 000 friends!" And we'll look back and laugh. I remember when Atari was supposed to be the death of civilization.

julie adkins
8.3.06 @ 10:21p

I thought David was in Florence Italy...

Either way (besides getting stuck midway on that factoid) you made me laugh with this one b/c I have avoided creating blogs, reading blogs, and even visiting myspace.

But I come here for the comedic gold.

dan gonzalez
8.4.06 @ 12:03p

MySpace by itself may already be obsolete: World of Warcraft meets MySpace.

Bands streaming mp3 concerts to virtual clubs, cyber brothels and poetry casts. A stock exhange and virtual real estate market...

stacy smith
8.22.06 @ 6:26p

How is this place any different from any other blog?

People post, others comment.

Topics range from the thought provoking to how a person burped and tasted like the hotdog they ate 3 days ago.

There is a specific group that cling together around here. I won't dig into that one any further as it isn't neccessary.

People argue about what is on TV. I'm inclined to start making noise about taking the tube away when people do that, but whatever. If getting ones undies in a bunch over Desperate Housewives makes them happy, who am I to tell them to cut the cord of their boob tube.

If there is life altering information hidden amongst stories of being drunk for three days, I've somehow missed it but have been too lazy to ask for clarification.

Don't mean to be a smartass Joe, but the only thing that comes to mind after reading your post was "Why is the kettle calling the pot black" as this place is just as much of a blog as any other "Look at me!" blog out there. *shrugs*

I happen to enjoy the adventures of Miss Doxie, but then again, I find stories of mishaving dogs more humorous than the people that announce they burped up an old hotdog.





joe procopio
8.23.06 @ 10:26a

Stacy, you're not being a smartass at all. In fact, that's the question that started this whole rant.

If the definition of a blog is as simple as "people post, others comment," then yes, without a doubt, this column is no different than any other blog post on any other blog.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

However, it's the application of the definition that bothers me. Pointing a camera at drying paint for two hours doesn't make a movie, well, I mean, technically, it does, but it's the content that defines the purpose.

Take that into Intrepid Media. The aim here is to post content with purpose - to make the reader think, laugh, get angry, act, discover, etc.

Whether or not we succeed each time out is another matter, but that's the goal.

What I have an issue with is the fact that MySpace exists as an ad-revenue generator, built on the backs of its membership. Thus, their goal is to reach a critical mass and pump pageviews.

But no one is going to watch paint dry.

UNLESS you put paint drying next to, say, Little Miss Sunshine and pass them off as the same item. Not only do you legitimize the flogging of useless and utterly inside content as legitimate entertainment, but you also get to pimp trailers for whatever else you (Fox/Rupert Murdoch) happen to have an investment in.

When you blur the lines like that and remove the goal of content-with-purpose, whether it be a legitimate entertainment website like us (or more authoritatively, let's use USA Today) or any blog (of which I agree there are good and bad), you effectively shut out the creative element, leaving you with a vast wasteland of broken viral marketing and, in my opinion, the death of the promise of reach that the Internet was supposed to fulfill.



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