Sunday, January 08, 2006

Beach Blanket Bondage
The Hidden Columnists--David Brooks Edition (08 Jan 06)

In which Mr. Brooks--in his Sunday column Bondage and Bonding (full column available to Times Select subscribers)--looks at all these young folks on the Web and shakes his head at their youthful indescretions and wonders what the world is coming to:

Companionship isn't dead. Go to MySpace.com or Facebook or Xanga or any of the other online sites where people leave messages on the home pages of their friends and you'll see these great waves of praise and encouragement. People visit their friends' pages and drop lovebombs. There's scarcely a critical word about anyone or anything in the whole social network. It's just fervent declarations of friendship, vows to get together soon and memories of great times gone by.

Some sociologists worry that we're bowling alone, but these sites (MySpace has 20 million visitors a month) are all about community. They're commonly used by people in the new stage of life that's been created over the past few decades. They are in their early to mid-20's; they're out of school but have no expectation they should marry soon. They're highly mobile, half-teen/half-adult, looking for a life plan and in between the formal networks of school, career and family.

So they bond online with an almost desperate enthusiasm. The Web pages they create are part dorm-room wall, part bulletin board, part young person's society page. They post photos of favorite celebrities, dirty postcards and music videos. And there are tons of chug-and-grins: photos of the gang gripping beers at a bar, photos of the tribe chugging vodka on the beach, photos of the posse doing shots at an apartment. Scroll down the page and there are people falling over each other, beaming and mugging for the camera phone.

[...]

Every social environment has its own lingua franca, and the one on these sites has been shaped by "American Pie," spring break and "Girls Gone Wild." The sites are smutty. Facebook, which is restricted to students and alumni of colleges, is rollicking but respectable. But there is a huge class distinction between the people on Facebook and the much larger and less educated population that uses MySpace. The atmosphere on MySpace is much raunchier.

To get the attention of fast-clicking Web surfers, many women have posed for their photos in bikinis or their underwear or in Penthouse-parody, "I clutch my breasts for you" positions. Here's a woman in a jokey sadomasochistic pose. There's a woman with a caption: "Yes, I make out with girls. Get over it" - complete with a photo of herself liplocked with a buddy.

The girls are the peacocks in this social universe. Their pages are racy, filled with dirty jokes and macha declarations: "I'm hot and like to party. Why have one boy when there are plenty to go around?!"

[...]

The idea on these sites is to show you're a purebred party animal, which leaves us fogies with two ways to see MySpace.

The happy view is that this is a generation of wholesome young people building nurturing communities and the smutty talk is just a harmless way of demarcating an adult-free social space. The dark view is that these prolonged adolescents are filled with earnest desires for meaningful human contact, but they live in a culture that has provided them with no vocabulary to create these sorts of bonds except through cleavage and vodka.

Depending on the person, both views are true.

[UPDATE - 2:30 PST Sunday] I didn't know this, but News Corporation (aka, Rupert Murdoch) purchased MySpace last summer. And it seems the BigBrotherishness of its FoxNews outlet has entered into the realm of this "opensource" community; via the London Independent (hat tip to Atrios):

Angry members of MySpace, the personal file-sharing website for young adults, are accusing Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation of censoring their postings and blocking their access to rival sites.

The 38 million subscribers to MySpace, which News Corp bought for $629m (£355m) last July, discovered that when they wrote to each other about rival video-swapping site YouTube, the words were automatically deleted, and attempts to download video images from YouTube led to blank screens.

The intervention by News Corp in the traditionally open-access world of the web - in particular the alteration of personal user profiles - provoked a storm of angry posts in online "blogs"
[...]

The protests gathered pace, and when 600 MySpace customers complained and a campaign began to boycott the site and relocate to rival sites such as Friendster, Linkedin, revver.com and Facebook.com, News Corp relented and restored the links.

However, MySpace managers promptly shut down the blog forum on which members had complained about the interference. An online notice said the problem was the result of "a simple misunderstanding".


0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home