By Rob Alderman
I’ve been having trouble beating my addiction. I’ve tried and tried, but it seems like I will never be free. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I do before I go to bed. I do it at least 12 times a day, sometimes more. Curse you MySpace â€¦ I hate your guts.
I remember when I was the guy who wasn’t doing the MySpace thing. Not being much of a computer type, I just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. All of my buddies kept bugging me about it though, and so I thought to myself, “well, it wouldn’t hurt to try it once.” I went through the process of making a profile, entering in all of my information in great detail (hey, if you’re going to do something, do it right, right?), and then came the photos. Grabbing my trusty phone, I quickly snapped a picture that looked just right for MySpace: black and white, not looking directly at the camera, with just a hint of melancholy. Perfect. Finally, a name â€¦ I had to be careful too, because MySpace kept warning me that once I had chosen one, it couldn’t be changed â€¦ever. With that finished, I clicked “submit” and held my breath.
It was a life changing moment when I saw the words for the first time: “You have a friend request.” Who was Tom? How did he find me so quickly? Why does he want to be my friend? I’m not one to take friendship lightly, but this guy seemed nice enough, so I said OK. Little did I know at that time that Tom was leading me down a dark path from which there was certainly no return. Soon, I was adding friends and requesting to be friends with people I’d never met. As my list of friends grew, I quickly became aware that I would have to be very careful about who was in my coveted “Top 8.”
I was writing blogs, reading blogs, commenting on blogs, commenting on comments, joining groups, creating groups, posting bulletins, reading bulletins, taking top ten quizzes that told the world what I thought about my favorite CDs, movies and what character I would be if I was living in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! My greatest MySpace moment occurred when one of my blogs cracked the top ten most read blogs on the site. Not bad, considering MySpace now boasts over 45 million subscribers. I was like an internet pariah, basking in my self-published glory. I had miraculously discovered the reason that Al Gore had invented the Internet.
My days were filled with high-speed connection happiness. Admittedly, there were some small problems with MySpace. The site would go down at random points during the day. I would spend an hour pouring my thoughts into a blog only to have it lost in the great MySpace void. And suddenly, people I had never met were posting comments about my personal life. But on the whole, MySpace had become the community I had always wanted. Or at least, I thought it was â€¦
In the back of my mind there were faint alarms going off, but I did hear them, and it caused me to think: That exactly is it that causes us to spend hours staring at a computer screen in the hopes that someone will post a supportive comment about the party we went to last Friday, or the fight we had Tuesday night with our girlfriend? Why are we so desperate for a community that exists only in cyberspace? Just three years ago, meeting someone on the Internet was worthy of being cast to the bottom rung of the social ladder. Now, thanks to MySpace, meeting people via the Internet is not only socially acceptable, but there is a certain level of coolness to having tons of friends on your MySpace page. What was once considered sad is now celebrated â€¦ How very odd.
We live in a society where honest friendship is hard to find. As people created to live together in community, we crave human interaction, and yet it somehow eludes us no matter where we seem to look. On MySpace we find people being completely open with their feelings, confessing their sins to a virtual world. In fact, many of us will openly post things for the whole world to read that we would never confide to our pastor. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering most churches have become the types of places where openness and truthfulness is not very welcome.
It seems as though the time honored tradition of face-to-face communication has all but been eradicated. Friendship is complex. Community is something that takes work. We conclude that being friends with real people is simply too complicated so we search for a community that can be had on our terms and our terms alone, and we find it on places like MySpace. Don’t like a friend? Delete them. Don’t want someone’s opinion? Ban their input. Don’t like the way you look? Simply change your photo. You can be who you want, when you want, with who you want. In fact, it’s so perfect and so addictive that it’s easy to spend all of our time there, pouring ourselves into our own little MySpace kingdoms.
I’m not certain how I finally realized that I was worshipping at the MySpace altar. Perhaps it was the fact that I was dragging in late to work as a result of late night blogging. Maybe I realized I was spending more time talking to my new “Internet” friends than my real life college buddies. Perhaps it was the fact that the letters had begun to fade from my keyboard from the incessant typing. Whatever the reason, I am thankful. No matter how fun it is, an addiction is an addiction, and it is not a healthy thing. I knew that I had to do something before I lost my soul completely to the void of cyberspace, and so I hatched one final desperate plan. I would quit MySpace for two weeks cold turkey.
I’m not proposing a ban on MySpace or anything like that. In fact, I’m not even deleting my own profile. I’m simply saying that things like MySpace are only healthy when done in moderation. Logging a hundred hours of Internet time on MySpace is nowhere near as fulfilling as spending real face-to-face time with a good friend. The famous communications guru Marshall McLuhan had a saying, “The medium is the message,” an idea based on the theory that the world was headed to a point of global communication where how we said something would become more important than what we were saying. I wonder what he would think about MySpace, where our online profiles have become more important to many of us than our real selves.
I posted one final blog advising the MySpace world that I was taking a bit of a “MySpace sabbatical” to regain some focus. This has not been easy, but I figure that the new perspective on life will be well worth the time spent away from my Mac iBook. In the past few days since leaving MySpace, I’ve gone for a walk, watched Hotel Rwanda (something I’d been swearing I’d do for months now) and started a great book. Last night, I even spent some time with my best friend Dusty, sitting on his front porch and talking about life, work and faith. He has a new job, and I’m happy for him. He began to tell me all about the great day he’d had and for a moment, I caught myself thinking, “this would make such a great blog,” before suddenly catching myself. I was wrong. This makes for great life.