Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Psychology of Myspace

So. I’m relatively new to Myspace. Someone, at some point, probably my publicist at Little, Brown, said, You should get a page on myspace. I didn’t really know why other than this general ‘promotion’ header. At this point I’ve got pages all over the place, amazon, friendster, here, and soon, WBEZ (which I feel sure is the one place people will actually hang around for a few minutes), and it’s a little hard to keep up, so basically, the Bert is still the best place to find me. All I knew about myspace was that it was very popular with bands and teenagers and the creepy older people who like them. So a couple of months ago I posted a profile and kind of left it alone, thinking if anything was going to happen it would just happen spontaneously. Nothing happened, which didn’t surprise me. Maybe a month ago I started poking around on the site a bit and discovered my friends and fellow writers Bryan Charles and Amanda Stern were on there. So I invited them to be my friends, and they agreed, and for a while I had just the two friends, which Myspace likes to remind me by saying on my page, “Elizabeth has 2 friends.” The digit “2” being in a much larger font than the “Elizabeth has friends.” Still, I didn’t take this too deeply to heart until finally, maybe a week or two ago, I started poking around again. The mind began this sort of thing: “Hm, let’s see who Bryan’s friends with. Wait, how does Bryan have three hundred friends? I have two books, and I’m ten years older than him. Hey, I know so and so. Hey, I’d like to be friends with that writer. Hey, this so and so keeps turning up on everyone’s page, let me see what they’re all about. Hey, I haven’t checked myspace in an hour, maybe I have a new friend. Hey, I have no new friends – why? Hm, I wonder if I should maybe be writing or something right now.” Then I start poking around some more.

Let me stop to define “poking around myspace”. Poking around myspace, v. wake up, make coffee, log in to see if you have any new friends, click on sixteen different profiles, notice that the little clock that tells you how long you’ve been online says 1:22:28.

Which for me is about 1:02:28 too much. I’m certain the time will come when I will get utterly bored with it, and it will say “last login, five years ago,” but until I have a complete handle on the psychology of Myspace, and/or I have a few hundred friends, I will be poking around a bit more.

Anyway. Thus far I have had one or two actual exchanges with people, and the opportunity to find and connect with other writers is there, and that’s cool. It’s just that it ends up sort of highlighting my small little place in this universe, kind of like high school. Thankfully, there’s no one saying mean things, not to me anyway, no cheerleaders (although there does seem to be an endless number of girls in bikinis), and no peer pressure that I can ascertain. But last time I checked, I had 61 friends, which is still by far the least number of friends of anyone I’ve come across. I’ve been trying to be a little selective, in spite of the fact that it’s clear that by and large, myspace friends are very different than real world friends, or even blog friends. Yes, some of my myspace friends are real world friends, but I didn’t need myspace for that. In many cases it’s difficult to know whether other people’s myspace friends are their real world friends or just their myspace friends. With the more famous people, it’s clear that like, Ben Folds and The Flaming Lips, say, who have allowed me to befriend them in this arena, don’t actually have 92,654 friends. We know that these are fans. Sometimes you can tell from the “comments” section who seems to actually know, or have met someone, sometimes not. Then there’s this whole other weirdness of possibly fake pages. For example, David Foster Wallace is now one of my myspace friends, and I like that DFW has only a few more friends than me at the moment and that I’m one of them, but at the same time, I feel entirely uncertain that this is the actual DFW and not some fake bizarro DFW. For one thing, the photo he’s got on there is an older one. For another, well, I dunno, it just doesn’t seem like something he’d do, or for that matter needs to do. His comment on my page after I added him says only, “I’m grateful,” which is suitably short and sweet enough so that whoever wrote it can’t be accused of being a bad DFW imitator. (I feel it’s safe to assume that everything verbally DFW-related isn’t as wordy or complex as his writing.) Plus, whoever wrote his profile clearly knows a lot about him, and it’s convincing enough, particularly the part that says “Note – for research purposes only.” Which I take to mean it either is DFW researching the bizarro world of myspace for some future writing project, which is believable enough, or that it could be some random DFW fan or person researching the bizarro world of DFW fans and, oh, I dunno, writers who wish that DFW was their friend and willing to settle for his little picture on myspace page in his person’s stead (you know, not that I know anything about that). On the other hand, if someone put up a page claiming to be me, um, I’d be having a bit of a fit. So far, my own criteria for choosing myspace friends has been this: people, books, magazines, and musicians I like, fans, if that should ever happen, and generally, whoever might be someone I’d really like to have a conversation with. No girls in bikinis. Or guys.

And then there’s the whole weirdness of being “friends” with a book, or a movie, or a magazine, since those things are inanimate (defamer recently pointed out the particular creepiness of World Trade Center wants to be your friend – do you wish to add World Trade Center as your friend?), but again, I’ve discovered a couple of cool literary magazines on there that I might send something to, and so the point is, well, I’m finding some interesting things worth checking out on there and so maybe someone out there will find my book and check it out as well, although my sense is that because it seems to be really taking off, books and writers on myspace, it’s just not possible to check out all that many books, and so you’re kind of back to square one, the way I figure it, except there really isn’t anything to lose, except chunks of 1:22:28 throughout my days.

If you’re interested in checking out my page Ain’t nuthin there you won’t see here tho. But maybe you’ll be my friend.


.25 life crisis kid said...

Um, you forgot to mention the Top 8 know, you pick the most valuable people in your life and put them on your top eight favorites and then people get really hurt when you move them around and that someone else is at one and someone else is in my old spot and so on and so on...the politics with myself with change the future. Or it will just make everyone really mad at everyone else.

Anonymous said...

ok...not a stalker, but the blog really is entertaining...&& it suits my research purposes, so thanks.

&& to the first comment...the whole top 8 thing is b e y o d overrated...seriously.

note: i haven't changed mine in like 6 months for fear of losing my position in the Top ??, whatever number you're allowed to have of my friend's...that's really sad :end note.

Anonymous said...

It honestly has come to my attention that the internet in general has now become one of the most ridiculously pointless creations. Five years ago it served a practical purpose of supplying random bits of information quickly. However, it has clearly evolved into a one stereotype that honestly disgusts me. I rarely am on the internet and do have a myspace under a pseudonym, I vehemently act on making sure that hardly anyone I know can bother me while I am using the internet for its original purpose, information. Furthermore myspace is the very epitome of what has become the final appliteration of all that the internet represented.
Now as for clandestine myspace profile and my meticulous attitude torward avoiding my peers, well we can assume that I merely became overwelled with curiosity and had to observe what myspace was about. In conclusion, while I wait blissfully for the computer and the internet to become archaic pieces of technology, I shall go out and purchase an encyclopedia set, and then be done with the internet once and for all.

Anonymous said...

For bands and artists to promote their music, I think Myspace is a great thing! I also notice how people are replacing normal and active face-to-face social interactions with chat forums, and Myspace seems to be the front-runner in this. I hinestly feel that we are going to pay a very heavy price socially and thus are mental health because of chat rooms and sites. Whatever happen to the days of just getting out of the house and meeting people face-to-face!?

Christopher said...


I did a Google search for "MySpace Psychology" hoping to dive a late night reading session into articles telling me about studies currently in progress. I instead found your blog. Although an old entry, this post was worth the read. I think MySpace is a great place to stay connected through the internet to acquaintences. Real life interaction will always surpass the impersonal aspect of the internet, but the MySpace medium - the atmosphere you experience when you are attached to a network of avatars - is a great distraction.

Elizabeth Crane said...

Thanks, Christopher.