Living on-line… Is it in you?

061220_descartes_blogger

I signed up on MySpace sometime in late 2004. I was at my BFFs house in Leucadia recovering from a mad birthday party for her husband. I am not sure how she got into it… but there we were giggling like idiots and cruising all over this “social network.” I had been in a relatively isolated situation for sometime, mostly of my own doing I suppose, but the idea of all these people out there, just available to talk to, make fun of, be aghast at, was amazing. I certainly was not meeting people like this in Northern Nevada. Or was I?

I was careful about what I said about myself in my “profile.” It seemed like somehow it was really important. I remember asking a friend if he thought my profile really reflected me. His answer? “Of course, but that doesn’t mean anything.” I did not understand. I think I am getting a better idea now. I selectively added people and of course got all excited when I saw that there were things waiting for me, like friend requests and comments. If you play around on these sites you may understand. I appreciated immediately the ability to share photos, that I was learning html, and that I could find groups and discussions about specific topics like travel and beer and whatever. I was amazed at all the funny stuff out there and it really expanded my view of the internet as I had not really used it for entertainment up to this point (bear in mind I completed an undergraduate degree without internet availability – and had only realy just gotten into it during my graduate project as a real tool, so I am either old or amazing or both.) It did encourage me to see what was ‘out there’ and for that I am way glad. Still early on – there was something mildly unsettling about the whole thing.

I wrote my first blog in February of 2005. I still like that one. And it was about things I still think about. A lot. The second blog I ever wrote was about the weirdness of on-linity.

Monday, February 07, 2005
mental mysteries of myspace
Current mood:  devious

I have discovered the espionage potential of myspace. Now I wonder if I am the voyeur I always thought I was or if there is something more deviant in my psyche. If only all the secrets people post on myspace were attached to their foreheads. I wish that people walked around with little dialog bubbles over their heads all the time so you could see what they were thinking and I think that myspace is to blame for this perversion of mine. Or is myspace just the beginning? Wait – I just realized that I don’t want to know what everyone is thinking – that would be too depressing. I want to choose who has the bubbles… I will have to come up with some kind of remote control. Myspace kind of works this way, maybe it is my remote control. Maybe I just need to get the hell off this site.

While semi-salient in its insights, I was missing the point. Just as I had thought carefully about my ‘identity’ on MySpace, so had most other people. The difference is that lost of people are for more… er, deviant, for lack of a better word, than I am. [This was long before the Craig’s List Killer, or the numerous abductions that were to take place based on MySpace profiles. But it was about the time warnings started to be posted about what to do and not to do ‘on-line.’] This was the birth of an entire subculture with totally new social mores and aims.You had to be aware of what you were putting out there and we are talking about a time where people were still being warned about not sharing their credit card numbers with solicitors and such nonsense. And as I indicated above, the voyeuristic nature is enticing – some of us are just curious – some are downright criminal and stalking was never so easy. Bearing in mind of course, that there is stalking like, “I can’t get this person off my mind and I am constantly checking to see what they are up to on-line to see if I can figure it out” and there is stalking, like “I’m gonna get you, sucker.” Neither one is particularly healthy, but I am guessing the aforementioned adolescent interpretation is far less harmful.

My point it that to apply the traditional rules of engagement here is a mistake.

Following MySpace, I eventually joined Facebook, (Actually I setup a blog first, thanks to the encouragement of some people I had found on – – – MySpace.)  Facebook has been weird because while I actually treated MySpace as a way to “meet” people, FB seems to operate from the opposite angle; you meet people, and then you are like, “So, hey, are you on Facebook?” I have not met anyone on FB, and lots of my anti-MySpace friends say that is what is good about it, you know what you are getting. But I disagree, I think one should think long and hard about the connections they want to rekindle and maintain. It is creepy in a whole different way, best articulated in this post from tfln.com:

(607): I was looking through my facebook friends list to see how many ppl on the list i’ve hooked up with, and was effectively reminded of my failed friendships, relationships, fuck budy-ships, friends with benefits, and “i cant remember if i ever did shit with him but we’re awkward now” ships.

Since then there has been GoogleTalk and Twitter. I never have used MSN or AIM, I have no reason why I don’t, I just don’t. I think actually I tried once and the set up process was annoying to me so I quit. I am not a fan of chatting because the timing is too weird and most of all I HATE LOL-speak. I really, really, really hate it. [A group of my MySpace friends has an entire campaign to eliminate the narcissistic LOLers from, well, at least their view. Though perhaps that is just another brand of narcissism, but at least it is creative and in line with my sensibilities. And I do adore the Douche Bag Patrol. They even have a theme song, not to mention some of the most insanely super-duper photoshop talents.] I find I have to use the Urban Dictionary at least once every time I get messages from my students in a chat format just to know what the hell they are abbreviating about. [Through it all I think that LOL and all of its derivatives are still the most annoying.]

Actually, I take that back… what has become most annoying is the Idiocratization of Facebook. I am barely even using Facebook anymore because all it seems to be is advertisements and quizzes. You know you are hurting when you long for the viral little notes… where have all the memes gone? I do not care what car I should have, what my stripper name should be, how much of a slut/geek/stud I am or what sandwich best represents me… but I will fill out long lists of questions all day long – that is my brand of narcissism, promoting creativity and lists – awesome. (Honestly, Facebook has become to social networking what Idiocracy is to democracy. If you have not watched the movie you really should.)

Currently I am advocating for Twitter. This is because I am using it, just as in the case of my original introduction to MySpace, to keep in touch with my BFF. Also, you have 140 spaces to make your point. I think it you are unable to do that you may want to rethink things. Plus you can link articles, photos and music to it. I get awesome realtime news and updates to things I selected out there on the internets. I like all of that and it is easy. Of course, I think it also promotes ADD, but that is a matter for an entirely different conversation.

Whatever your choices or opinions of all these websites, the ultimate question still remains – are people who they say they are, or are they saying who they wish they were? Hard to tell. I am pretty sure everyone, like me, says that they are who they say they are out there in the virtual world. But in a format that allows a level of intimacy afforded only by distance (and relative anonymity) who the hell really knows. I suppose you wait to see how it all plays out. I have connected with a few really amazing people through these sites (well, specifically MySpace, my blog and now Twitter) and at the same time I have been sucked into some total bullshit as well. One person I met, deleted me after a falling out and that was the most meaningful insult he could levy at me. For him virtual acknowledgment – or not- was the utmost statement. [And this person I did ‘know’ we traveled together for quite some time… and for the record, are now Facebook friends. Go fucking figure… I cannot.] And what about this paradoxical need to totally bare your soul and keep you profile(s) private… or is that not a paradox but sanity? It could very well just be a fear of solitude as explored here by William Deresiewicz. The most common thing I keep hearing about these days is how people maintain multiple online identities. What a hassle. I hope it is worth it in the end for them, I cannot imagine the required upkeep. [It reminds me of all those terrible pulp fiction stories of the dad who had two separate families…] And what of the need to exist online? I am not sure I see it as a need personally, it is more like a tool of diversion, but I am a world class justifier, so you can make what you will of that.

And then, what if you find out that someone was not who they said they were?

Well, that shit happens in ‘real’ life all the time too.

I guess you just roll with it.

20040319h

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About Amanda

I am repatriating expatriate trying to work it all out. Well, to work some of it out anyhow. I am writing here for sanity, focus and general over-sharing.
This entry was posted in Absurd Shit, Friends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Living on-line… Is it in you?

  1. Anna Es Nuy says:

    LOVE the end chalkboard cartoon. And since you mentioned it, I have to tell you that I am hopelessly waiting for the Twitter enhancements that I think are missing from the site…It is so damned hard to keep a stream of tweets going back and forth between the two of us. I wish Twitter allowed us to reply to a tweet so that the tweeter knows what specifically we are replying to. Until then, I think the communication between two people on twitter is only semi-functional at best. That being said, I still like receiving direct tweets from you on my phone. That is hella fun. Now, BE GOOD and stay away from that patron this week.

  2. Anna Es Muy says:

    oops, I am “Anna Es Muy”, not “Anna Es Nuy”.

  3. Amanda says:

    Yes, yes you are.
    And I forgot to link the article you passed on to me that totally fits in here… So, consider all of my ramblings in conjunction with Deresiewicz’s thesis on “The End of Solitude” linked right hrrrr:
    http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i21/21b00601.htm

  4. driss says:

    Myspace bills itself as “A Place For Friends”, and at its outset the timing and atmosphere were perfect for that. The internet was still in its rapid-expansion phase, with people like yourself signing up to experience the then-new “social networking” phenomenon; privacy issues while still very real, were still “someone else’s problem”, and as always, there was an attractiveness to becoming “big” online. You could choose which parts of your persona to display and which to hide, which fantasy elements to include as well- hey, no one needs to know that you’re really (insert unfavourable adjective HERE _____)… how many pages have you seen of seventeen year olds making “$250,000+ per annum”? When you joined, there was a galvanising event taking place in the US- the two thousand four elections– which drew very sharp lines and made alliances and commonalities rather easy to find and build from.

    As a friend (whom i initially met on Myspace) told me- “myspace is like a bar whose trendy heyday has come and gone”. The exodus to facebook which you spoke of… i chose not to participate in. Main reason being that i see a “natural progression” if you will, of how a friendship *should* evolve. E-friendships will almost inevitably fade, the frequencies two people seemed to share at one time becoming more and more out of sync, with nothing left in the end save for email forwards or facebook pokes. Is that even “friendship”? If so, then i’ll pass.

    There are still some sites out there such as meetup dot com which lend themselves towards takin’ shit offline (where again, friendships are SUPPOSED to end up eventually)- but the number of active users pales in comparison to those who would rather remain connected yet at the same time disconnected, facebook-poking and SMS-LOL-ing instead of actually chillin and illin. I’ll pass, this round…

  5. Amanda says:

    Well D- I am glad you and I have other ways to stay connected for sure. I still hold a little soft spot in my heart for MySpace… some very special connections came out of there and no stalkers that I was aware of. I really think Facebook blows and I am haunted by people I don’t want to be haunted by on there. And seriously, when it comes down to a virtual “poke” being a way to maintain contact I think things have gotten pretty sad. [More sad even is the fact that for a time, that “poke” sated a certain neuroses of my own.]

    Unfortunately the sites designed to ‘meet-up’ seem even worse, as evidenced by those ridiculous outtakes I sent you – can those people really be serious? Plus, all you have to do is substitute this TFLN ( http://textsfromlastnight.com/view/47956 ) for the “Anonymity” element of the above cartoon and you get the same result in non-virtual reality.

    I remain ever hopeful, always curious (because I am for sure a voyeur), but certainly skeptical.

    • driss says:

      I have to admit, whenever people extol the virtues of Facebook in comparison to Myspace i tend to look at them with a “what on EARTH can you like that mess for?” attitude. Yeah, I get it. Facebook is more “genuine” blah blah….

      For genuine-ness, try going over to your friend’s place and hanging out without any electronic fences/leashes between the two of you.

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