The MySpace Generation
I grew up in what you can call the MTV Generation. Emulating rock stars and rappers were the kids of my age. Things haven’t changed much in that regard, but the focus of the next generation is not so much MTV and televised media as the exploding world of the Internet. The Internet has totally redefined the limits of commercialism and instant gratification to a level television could never go because of interactivity—and teenagers are eating it up like a cat licks anti-freeze.
My kids are growing up in what I would call the MySpace Generation (after the globally popular website MySpace.com). According to Alexa at the time this article was written, MySpace was the number 5 website in the world in terms of traffic.*
If you take some time to peruse MySpace you find a couple things almost immediately. First, it has a huge member base, including most bands both local and renowned. Second, the average member is probably a teenager or college-age. That explains the lack of useful content or quality.
As much as I wish it would go away, MySpace is here to stay. But I will not let my kids get onto it… and here are some criticisms I think parents should share with their kids who insist that MySpace is "all that”.
First, if you get into the MySpace world you will notice that everyone is doing exactly the same thing. This is completely ironic since many (if not all) of the people using MySpace are attempting to stick out in the crowd with their own individuality. Posting a blog to share thoughts and ideas seems like a great way to do that; but if you dig around, one "unique” person’s profile seems about the same as the next. Everyone seems to post a few thoughts of the day, such as "I have nothing to say but will post something when it comes,” or something like "The crowd is so fickle and I hate school.” If everyone is posting the exact same things… there isn’t much unique about it.
Furthermore, the network system that is the proliferating success story of MySpace where anyone can ask to be a linked "friend” of other members is actually just a sham—a self-reinforcing way to boost traffic to any and all pages but valueless in terms of content value. "I saw your profile and thought you were cool…” and "Yo thanks for the add… peace” are so prevalent but so mundane. Of what value is all this filler? And what about it makes any of the members "unique” in the way teenagers seek?
The next irony of MySpace is that its membership is so counter-culture (as to make their own culture) that it almost seems humorous that they support a solid corporate America by using MySpace. MySpace is owned by News Corp, a stolidly right-wing corporate media entity that also owns Fox News.
According to some of my friends in the music world, representatives from the record label industry insist that all bands create a MySpace profile. For many bands, MySpace has supplanted the need for a standalone website. Even Google is giving a lot of clout to MySpace, giving many MySpace pages exceptionally worthwhile page rank because of link popularity.
MySpace gives a lot of exposure to all the bands who actively expand their friends network; but the exposure from MySpace does not really produce the results bands are looking for—especially small bands trying to build up a fan-base from the bottom up. Because MySpace is so huge, and because it is global, few small bands can hope to stick out. When a small band does get "friends” to join their network, it is likely that the "friend/fan” will live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Needless to say, it’s hard enough for a smalltime band to sell tickets to people in their hometown, let alone states, countries or continents away. In reality, a network on MySpace means very little for bands except that it offers promotional tools that local fans can use—email event alerts. Still, my company has bands who have used our server to host promotional images for MySpace events… and while the network traffic is impressively high, the turnout does not impress me even when the bands in question are highly talented and unique.
Because of its target on younger teenagers, MySpace has become a regular haunt of some sexual predators and law enforcement. Of course, the media may be blowing that angle out of proportion… but the stereotypical sexual predator is not the only threat to young people; the sheer quantity of teenagers (largely unsupervised) means that the dangers of the online world (MySpace or other similar sites) are nearly infinite—if your kid reads a thousand blogs on a popular website from similar aged kids talking about what is "cool” you can pretty much guarantee that your kid will start thinking the same way—no matter how angelic you may view your child.
I really think that the lesson of MySpace is that our kids are young adults who are searching for a way to "fit in” even when they demand they want to be unique. It’s something all of us went through, from the Greatest Generation to Generation X, from the MTV Generation on to the MySpace Generation. For some reason, kids can’t see that their parents were that way, and for some reason parents forget about that era in their lives.
Parents need to realize that their kids are impressionable; parents need to get involved in their kids’ lives, which includes their online activities. It’s probably a good thing when a parent reads their child’s MySpace blogs… though for most probably quite shocking. Mostly, I think it is important that parents start getting involved with the development of their kids… meaning kick out MySpace and start directing children to another place… maybe somewhere called Our Place. Kids need boundaries and direction… and if the parents don’t give it at home… they will find those boundaries and inspiration elsewhere. While I make a living on the Internet and see it as a wonderful tool… it is a totally worthless parent. But it’s the parent of the MySpace Generation. What kids learn from MySpace (and similar sites) is that standards are not cool and that being unique means fitting the mold of a valueless subculture.
*By early 2010, MySpace had dropped to #17 globally for web traffic. But the trend isn't that social networking is dropping. Number 2 in 2010 is Facebook... a website that has reinvented social networking to make it more appealing to more suburban crowds.