Myspace: The Place Where Culture Goes to Die
In its mid-2000’s heyday, the social networking website Myspace offered a utopia of shared experiences, transnational friendships, potential business opportunities, and a platform for talented musicians and artists to be discovered and praised. It was a hotbed of what seemed like millions of likeminded individuals, most of whom wished to create a world free of international borders, religious doctrine, and political issues. Myspace seemed to portray the positivity of a globalized, democratic and connected world. Its platform meant that it was a chance to promote your personality, or a hyper exaggerated version of your best personality traits to friends in real life, and to those whom you would never get to meet. It allowed us to explore and developed the kind of people we wanted to be, but perhaps, the people we really weren’t. There was only a slim possibility of being called out on falsification of your job title, social status or education, because everyone was doing the same thing. This led to a virtual state of acceptance, one in which we were happy to live. For a short while Myspace seemed to capture a positivity that was seriously lacking in the post 9/11 world of war, terrorism and mistrust. It all seemed too good to be true, and of course it was. Myspace began to overcomplicate its platform, a by-product of its virtually limitless engagement. Users’ wishing to express themselves as more vibrant and wild than they really were, downloaded backgrounds, fonts and templates from unofficial template websites that often seemed to stand in the way of the site’s primary function to communicate individuality. Users instead had to peer through layers of digital coding to extract the individual within. The comments features allowed for hi-resolution video, flash, GIF and JPEG images to be imported, which added with vast amounts of advertisements, slowed the download time and made for a clunky and staggered page experience. Perplexed users mass-migrated in their millions to Facebook’s streamlined and simplistic platform, which had reverted back to maintaining close friendships with people we communicated with on a day-to-day basis and dispensed with the transnational relationships formed on Myspace. The utopia once offered by Myspace began to resemble a cluttered and polluted Blade Runner-type world, a landscape of dark and foreboding architecture, flashing neon advertisements, and with only sinister inhabitants remaining. At first Facebook felt like taking a deep breath in a new world. Its crisp design seemed altogether unique and uncomplicated, yet familiar. Facebook’s semblance was, perhaps, more akin to the film Gattaca, seductively clean and sterile, yet as we would later find out, also impersonal.
The death of Myspace also came about because we shared too much of ourselves with too many people. The friendships we created with unknown individuals and obscure bands and artists felt real and should have been fulfilling, after all Myspace offered us an opportunity to be friends with new and established bands instead of just their fans, we felt we had a stake in their success and creative process. Alas this was not the case. The majority of young bands that existed on Myspace were held together by a flimsy idea that they might hit the big time, a usually impossible dream that only a few achieved. The bands broke up, went to college, university or work, and rejoined reality. Yet their pages remained intact and undeleted, their last gig at some horrid rock ‘n’ roll dive still posted in the events calendar like a declaration of their failure. The international set of friends acquired over the years drifted away to Facebook and did not reconnect with the masses they had acquired on this new format. Their Myspace pages were left abandoned midway through a mundane update or conversation that was never finished and was symbolic of the fleeting and insignificant friendship we shared with them. They simply got up and walked away without saying so much as goodbye. In their absence, the pages were hacked into by viral marketing companies promoting weight loss regimes, muscle building pills, and cheap holidays to South Korea. And as this happened to almost everyone else who abandoned Myspace the wall of friends they left behind was hacked into as well, providing a symphony of discarded media, a cut and paste culture of nothingness.
It is interesting to see that Myspace’s own decline was in sync with the global economic decline. As we saw the damage a globalized world of free flowing capital could do, we retreated into our own smaller worlds, where cynicism prevailed. We no longer thought that having friends in faraway places was exotic or special. Yet a version of our former, more optimistic selves still exist. Our profiles are still wondering a dark corner of the internet. Our youthful self-shot portraits smiling out at no one. A list of interests we no longer follow and ambitions we never achieved. A friend list of people we never met and if by chance we ever did pass them in the street, we would never recognize anyway. Our Myspace page is forever mocking us to what we never accomplished, not just personally, but as human beings. We tried to create a world of free expression, friendship and trust, creativity and praise. On Myspace we tried to portray a better version of ourselves and live that version until it became real, but we got scared that we might succeed, and the world might just become a better place, and so we backed off and returned to the pessimism that we shared with close friends. Now we troll the internet, making idle threats and pouring scorn on those who are more successful, more intelligent and more beautiful than us, in a vain attempt to find solidarity in ridicule. Even if we had a change of heart and wanted to try to relive Myspace’s promise again, the site has stripped away the individual engagement and replaced it with a music and performance platform, where the lone figure is lost amongst the bands and artists that dominate the site. We now haven’t the option to migrate to another social networking platform to recapture the individual, because the ones available to us have established parameters on our communication. Myspace may have allowed us to lay the foundations of a positive, democratic and globalized world, but we squandered that opportunity, and on top of those foundations have now built an ugly and contemptuous worldview. Well-done to us.
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