A Cultural Critique of MySpace in the United States
Undoubtedly, a significantly large number of adolescents as well as in the general population of the United States are into the online social communication system tagged as MySpace. In the tradition of other social grouping or networking sites, MySpace was not spared from criticisms. This is primarily because of its reported moral and social or cultural implications that left panicking adults, specifically the parents, to be open about their disapproval of the said interactive website. Additionally, media’s disclosure of possible online attacks or aggressions as well as bullying caused by MySpace has resulted in an increased concern among social or cultural guardians.
However, while the potential risks are evident and inevitable, the American culture should not totally fret about this online social fad. In fact, what it needs aside from maybe stricter guidelines is an increased dedication by the adults to monitor or supervise the young ones in order to prevent any untoward eventualities. This is because the advent and continued existence of online networking such as MySpace is now difficult to put to a stop. MySpace and its related sites come and go but their kind of social or cultural communication may never cease to exist. Thus, it is important for the parents to do their roles. A very clear social or cultural message behind MySpace is that there is a need for parents to guide and protect their children from its negative implications. Otherwise, it will just continue to bring hazards to the American society.
Citing Google and the report made its founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, Kornblum wrote that MySpace was named as the 2005 top gainer and has remarkably soared to a more than 50 million users for the past two years (Kornblum 1). In fact, due to its rising reputation, many young Americans are able to set aside or neglect going to the malls, seeing movies, and even attending school. It is just like if you are an adolescent in the United States today, the “in” thing is definitely to be involved in MySpace. This is because it is through this kind or set-up of social grouping that teenagers are free and can wildly imagine how to express themselves by decorating their respective profiles through pictures, music, literary creations and other features. MySpace has actually turned into a place where famous personalities and those that are virtually unknown gather and interact with each other (Kornblum 2-3).
The social part of MySpace is that rather than the usual or conventional communication of the young ones over the phone, they can now have unlimited time to communicate by sending instant messages which they called the bulletins. Aside from the regular features, where users can create connections to others as well as finding new acquaintances, MySpace’s zooming fame is its music feature which is relatively new in the networking system. Citing Katz, Kornblum said that MySpace “is the kind of place that in earlier generations, kids dreamed about — where they could go and be with their friends, meet new people with similar tastes and find out what’s cool, what’s hot and what’s not” (Kornblum 2-3).
New Social or Cultural Behavior
While it can be said that social networking is still on its infancy stage, experts have noted that their kind particularly MySpace have already produces a fresh kind of social or cultural behavior that confuses the difference between the real and reel (online) communication. This is evident with how the young ones regard the importance of the net particularly what MySpace can offer thereby making them unable to tell the distinction between the two worlds. Majority of modern adults see online networking such as MySpace not just as an add-ons but as an essential or necessary components of their daily living. While other old and traditional ways are not forgotten, MySpace and its related networking sites are undeniably have become part of the advance and demanding lives of the young generation (“The MySpace Generation” 2).
In fact, the rising phenomenon of a bursting network such as MySpace has resulted into a lot of major and big industries demanding to be involved in this new kind of social or cultural landscape or way of living (“The MySpace Generation” 4). The reason for MySpace and its advertising partners taking off is the former is now able to offer and provide adolescents and even the young adults what they look for and what they really prefer and need. As the BusinessWeek cover story has stated: “That’s the elusive nature of trends and fads, and it poses a challenge for networks large and small” (“The MySpace Generation” 5).
Negative Impacts on Adolescents’ Social or Cultural Characteristics.
Majority of the parents of American adolescents may have never heard or know what MySpace is, but not their children. It is hit for the young generation in the United States because it is like an adolescent’s social and academic paraphernalia, such as school yearbook, personal journal and social organizations, are rolled into one. MySpace is totally free of charge, can be easily accessed and managed. It is where the users can practically talk about anything and share anything. However, before they know it, this online networking can lead its users to concealed risks. Critically analyzing MySpace in the social or cultural perspective will lead to a realization that it is actually an online secret property that basically all its teenager-users hide from their less Internet-savvy parents. It is an arena where the young ones can create and perform any role or personality they dream of or want. Unfortunately, they are unable to recognize and realize that because of MySpace, they are prone to the risks that can be brought by anyone who has access to Internet and that includes even the sexual assailants who can easily see their posted pictures and personal details (Stafford 1).
A surf made by the NBC’s Dateline on some MsSpace accounts have resulted into discovery of teen-agers’ photos while on binge drinking sessions, some are evidently on actual illegal drug use or pot session, female adolescents posing wearing only their underwear and others in simulated sexual actions while there are some who are actually into actual sexual intercourse. Other less provocative accounts are likewise risky as, just like all of the users, personal information such names, addresses, contact numbers and even daily schedules are posted (Stafford 1). These findings are definite manifestations of the alarming negative implications of MySpace to the social or cultural upbringings and interactions of the young ones to the other members of their society. It is also worthy to note that while some young Americans may be naïve in engaging in this kind of online social grouping, their inclinations towards life realities such as sex and relationship are badly affected because of the social fad that MySpace has created (Stafford 1).
Although MySpace was not created primarily to destroy the lives of the young Americans, the apparent continued indifference of the people behind it indicates that the American society particularly the adolescents’ lives will continue to be at risk. Despite what it sent through an e-mail message to Staffords’s Dateline stating that it forbids the posting of personal details and lewd photos or other materials, MySpace still needs to be responsible to its around 50 million users in order to prevent a lot of American adolescents and young adults ran the risk of their lives (Stafford 2).
The negative or hazardous effects of MySpace on teenagers’ social or cultural attitudes are affirmed by Sullivan who said that the online networking is apparently guilty of affecting the lives of the said group who are one of the active online users. This is because the young ones’ progressive participation in Internet blogging and creation of accounts, with their personal details but without the knowledge and permission of their parents, are evidence of their very adventurous nature that MySpace is apparently taking advantage. (Sullivan 1). Citing Handy, Sullivan reported that a group consisted of 250 young Americans, around one-third are engaged into blogging and networking but what is alarming is that only some five percent of the parents of the said bloggers know about what their children are doing. Quoting again Handy, Sullivan wrote: “The girls are all made up to look seductive….Parents have no clue this is going on. You think your kid is safe because they are in your house in their own bedroom. Who can hurt them when you are guarding the front door? But (the Internet) is a bigger opening than the front door” (Sullivan 2-3).
The practice of MySpace’s users of creating user names and illicitly portraying characters or personalities are specific negative impacts of this kind of community site. In the long run, it is not only the disturbing way how the young ones use or play on the Internet but it is their eventual alarming interactions and conducts towards their family and in the society that are actual manifestations of the disadvantages of online networking. Citing Aftab, who is connected with the WiredSafety.org program, Sullivan added that MySpace may not be actually safe for adolescents. This is proven by a lot of complaints received daily by the organization. “There are underage kids on every social networking site on the Net. They are engaging in highly provocative conversations and doing things they would never do off line (qtd. in Sullivan 4).
The above negative implications surpass whatever is the current policy of MySpace as regards its membership. Its Spokesperson claimed that MySpace immediately deletes accounts or profiles that are violating their terms and condition and which they deem as offensive and contain too much personal details. However, a lot of users who are posing not their real ages or lying about their personal information go over their rule and are able to continue with their networking under pseudo personalities thereby exposing their lives to risks (Sullivan 4).
Young subscribers of MySpace are imparted with an incorrect assurance that their accounts containing personal information are totally safe. What they do not unconsciously realize or could be intentionally disregard is that an account is open to a lot of risky situations or eventualities especially when it lands into the hands of an unscrupulous person. This is basically the primary premise why the site is faced with a lot of criticisms although it is generally aimed at promoting the social or cultural perspective of one subscriber. In fact, when taken and used only as a form of social grouping, the online networking actually performs a significant function in assisting the young generation and the general population as well to find and have an update on other people whom they already know as well as making new acquaintances or friends and be able to convey themselves in a positive way (Sullivan 5).
However, a deeper investigation of the matter reveals that it is in the process of signing-up that the site can be criticized. This is because the release of personal details, which is required for one to have an account, is an involuntary scheme where people divulge pieces of information that could be detrimental to their own safety. In effect, it is a sort of cultural blackmail because for one to become part of an online social grouping, one is required to divulge information that he or she may not want to disclose, but is obliged in an intention to foster communication with friends and relatives. In addition, aside from this kind of social pressure, the subscribers are unaware that they were actually deceived by the site’s sign-up procedure. This is because by simply asking one’s email address or any other personal details, the subscriber-to-be is inclined to comply outright, with the assumption that their whatever information he or she has given is secured by MyScpace but without realizing its implications to personal life and in the society (Sullivan 5).
MySpace has elicited another criticism when Itzkoff shared in his June 2006 Playboy magazine article about what the site has been promoting as its purpose of bringing people together. Itzkoff wrote that the photos of female users with skimpy clothing on their personal profiles or other insinuations of their unreal personalities are apparently just a misrepresentation of its main intention and turned out to be just a duplication of men’s magazine such as Playboy. He added that the “addictive, time-consuming nature of the site” is another flunk of MySpace because it virtually deprives its users of spending time in other quality leisure and worthwhile preferences. Itzkoff further disputed that MySpace allows a lot of people an access to others’ lives, “without giving the time needed to maintain such relationships and that such relationships do not possess the depth of in-person relationships” (Itzkoff 60).
MySpace was also criticized by MoveOn.org, an activist association, which said that the site is actually not practicing censorship because it does not really present anti-media advertisements. The group added that the online networking also earned contention when it’s censored some YouTube videos (“MySpace Censors User-Generated Content” 2). Citing what the program director for a group of campus security named Alison Kiss has said, Bazar wrote that “social networking websites such as MySpace have made it easier for stalkers who target women on college campuses” (Bazar 1).
Role of the Adults
The problem and controversy created by MySpace is not a total social or cultural disadvantage. In fact, adolescents’ blogging is generally perceived to be a good activity. This is applicable with the strict supervision and control of the adults such as the parents. There is actually no need yet to immediately close Internet cafes or online social groupings. Parents, indeed, are required to be much more aware and involved with what for and how their children are using the net. However, there are few things that parent need to undertake in order to ensure the online safety of their children. Ultimately, the most effective way is to establish an open communication between the parents and the child which, in turn, would encourage their collective efforts to utilize the Internet in a more worthy purpose.
While there are indeed possible hazards on MySpace, it is significant not the neglect them and do something about it. To the youth, the advantages of socialization surpass the possible risks that the online networking can create. Parents must realize that their children are undergoing adolescent stages that require experimenting new things such as making friends on the net. What is important is for the youth to be mature and responsible to what they are doing and this can be achieved with the guidance of their parents. In fact, what the American society is experiencing today is an actual cultural shift primarily caused by the introduction of fresh means the coming of wider and advance mobility and technology-access by the young ones. Whatever the implications, the younger generations will do whatever they like just to be able to keep abreast on new social or cultural offerings. Therefore, the guidance and restrictions of the adults are essential in an effort for the young Americans to achieve and realize their technological advancement.
Bazar, Emily. “Stalking ‘definitely a problem’ for women at college.” USA Today. 24
April 2007. 2 June 2008 <http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-04-23- vt-stalking_N.htm?csp=>.
Itzkoff, Dave. “2006: A MySpace Odyssey.” Playboy Magazine. June 2006: 60-75.
Kornblum, Janet. “Teens hang out at MySpace.” USA Today. 1 January 2006. 2 June 2008 <http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-01-08-myspace-teens_x.htm>.
“MySpace Censors User-Generated Content.” MoveOn Organization. 2 June 2008 <http://www.civic.moveon.org/pdf/myspace/>.
Stafford, Rob. “Why parents must mind MySpace. Posting too much information on social networking sites may be dangerous.” Dateline NBC. 5 April 2006. 2 June 2008 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11064451/>.
Sullivan, Bob. “Kids, blogs and too much information. Children reveal more online than parents know.” MSNBC Technology and Science. 29 April 2005. 2 June 2008 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7668788/>.
“The MySpace Generation: They live online. They buy online. They play online. Their power is growing.” BusinessWeek. 12 December 2005. 2 June 2008 <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_50/b3963001.htm>.