Down and out... on MySpace.

Truth Telling E-zine - 9 January 2006
Glasgow University Magazine - 14 April 2006

MySpace may be the preserve of wannabe models and nerdy teenagers (my MySpace name is theunknownsoldier1) but as of January 2006, the number of MySpace-ists hit 47 million. That’s enough people to replace the entire population of Italy. Imagine that - the People’s Republic of MySpace, with spear-gripping indigenous tribes like the 28,000-strong ‘I Luv Pink’ clan and hardline political forces such as the ‘Decriminalise Weed Club’ (population 5,543) and the ‘Republicans Are Better In Bed’ Party (5,996). The State owns the mass media and the arts (‘MySpace Records Vol.1’ is out now) and inhabitants are kept updated by web bulletins from their Head of State/Webmaster – who goes solely by the name of ‘Tom’.

Tom Anderson, the 30-year-old techie-genius who co-founded MySpace, sold the site to media-hawk Rupert Murdock for $580m last July. Afterwards, he sent out a weepy (and very American) bulletin to all of his then-22,500,000 friends declaring: “Many of you have asked about NewsCorp buying MySpace … everyone seems scared that MySpace is going to change. I’m not leaving, I’m still going to make the decisions about the site and I’m not going to let things suck. MySpace has been an important part of my life for almost two years now. I know it’s as important to others as it is for me. I won’t let it get jacked up.”

Click onto MySpace. You’ll find 47 million people with their own profile pages, over 500,000 bands and solo artists (including a 63-year-old Jimi Hendrix?) and almost 2 million discussion groups. I think I’d throw up if I knew how many hits MySpace.com received every day. For those of you who don’t know, MySpace is a web service that allows people to connect with other people. It trumpets itself for “making ordinary people famous and famous people ordinary” (it’s true – pop stars like Ashlee Simpson and Nelly have public accounts). Users can find friends by searching their email address, real names or their MySpace names, and they can create ‘profiles’ filled with their interests, their biography, their top eight ‘friends’ and who they’d like to meet.

It’s an online palace where the vain meet the shy, the lonely meet the culture-vultures and the stars meet the fans. On a typical 5-minute scroll through the mazes of online egos, I found a young female singer humming about her new folk album, a dyslexic narcotic blogging about his concerns with democracy and a young girl with as many spot-the-difference webcam pictures of herself to cover the surface area of Argentina.

According to Tom’s own statistics, the average registered MySpace user spends an hour and a half on the site per week. Some of my friends log on more than quadruple that time per day – but what is the appeal? Can we imagine the hypothetical MySpace island, governed by Tom himself – a society of many different cultures, a society of many different talents, where everyone is nice, eloquent and civilised? Perhaps it’s this notion of utopia that keeps people logging on and blogging on. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go and reply to my friend from Tokyo.