Decursus MySpace
OR
MySpace Makes Me Want to Puke
OR
MySpace is Kind of Ruining the Internet:
ASK ME HOW!


I have been asked a few times why I hate MySpace so much. Apparently, having to answer the same question three times is redundant enough for me that I’m willing to write a big stupid manifesto about a webpage that I should probably just ignore. My reasons for hate break down into two basic categories:

  • MySpace really sucks.
  • MySpace makes the rest of the Internet less cool, too.

Before we get started, a little background on me, and on the tone I’ll be using. I’m going to assume that you’re fairly new to publishing your own content on the internet. If you’re not, then you’ve probably discerned several of the reasons why MySpace sucks all by yourself. You might even be looking over this essay for things I’ve missed. But again, we’re assuming that I need to provide a sense of history and context. So here are my credentials. I taught myself HTML when I was 13. I never owned a book or took a class, I did it the old fashioned way, which was reading the source code of other pages, and using trial and error until things looked kind of like I wanted. I have had a personal webpage of some kind since I was about 14. The first was an AOL account when they JUST started giving users a few megs (I think FIVE) to host a webpage. In Junior High, when you were outside playing football or whatever, I was in the library teaching myself frames. Don’t worry about what frames are, since no one uses them anymore. Additionally, I’ve owned my own domain since 2000, though at this point I own two, and I host a few webpages. What I’m saying here is, I’m familiar with the internet. I read blogs back when they were still weblogs. How we got any work done typing those two extra letters I’LL NEVER KNOW.

Parte the Firste: My Space Really Sucks

We’ll just get the whole fake-underground-actually-owned-by-huge-corporation thing out of the way. MySpace is owned by News Corp. That’s the same company that owns:

Television

Fox Broadcasting Company

Fox Television Stations

  • WNYW – New York City
  • WWOR – New York City
  • KTTV – Los Angeles
  • KCOP – Los Angeles
  • WFLD – Chicago
  • WPWR – Chicago
  • KMSP – Minneapolis
  • WFTC – Minneapolis
  • WTXF – Philadelphia
  • WFXT – Boston
  • WTTG – Washington D.C.
  • WDCA – Washington D.C.
  • KDFW – Dallas
  • KDFI – Dallas
  • WJBK – Detroit
  • KUTP – Phoenix
  • KSAZ – Phoenix
  • WUTB – Baltimore
  • WRBW – Orlando
  • WOFL – Orlando
  • WOGX – Ocala
  • WAGA – Atlanta
  • KRIV – Houston
  • KTXH – Houston
  • WJW – Cleveland
  • WTVT – Tampa
  • KDVR – Denver
  • KTVI – St. Louis
  • WITI – Milwaukee
  • WDAF – Kansas City
  • KSTU – Salt Lake City
  • WHBQ – Memphis
  • WGHP – Greensboro
  • WBRC – Birmingham
  • KTBC – Austin

DBS & Cable

FOXTEL
BSkyB
Star
DirecTV
Sky Italia
Fox News Channel
Fox Movie Channel
FX
FUEL
National Geographic Channel
SPEED Channel
Fox Sports Net
FSN New England (50%)
FSN Ohio
FSN Florida
National Advertising Partners
Fox College Sports
Fox Soccer Channel
Stats, Inc.

Film

20th Century Fox
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Television Studios
Blue Sky Studios

Newspapers
 
United States

  • New York Post

United Kingdom

  • News International
  • News of the World
  • The Sun
  • The Sunday Times
  • The Times

Australia

  • Daily Telegraph
  • Fiji Times
  • Gold Coast Bulletin
  • Herald Sun
  • Newsphotos
  • Newspix
  • Newstext
  • NT News
  • Post-Courier
  • Sunday Herald Sun
  • Sunday Mail
  • Sunday Tasmanian
  • Sunday Territorian
  • Sunday Times
  • The Advertiser
  • The Australian
  • The Courier-Mail
  • The Mercury
  • The Sunday Telegraph
  • Weekly Times

Magazines

InsideOut
donna hay
SmartSource
The Weekly Standard
TV Guide (partial)

Books

HarperMorrow Publishers

  • HarperMorrow
  • General Books Group
  • Access
  • Amistad
  • Caedmon
  • Avon
  • Ecco
  • Eos
  • Fourth Estate
  • HarperAudio
  • HarperBusiness
  • HarperCollins
  • Harper Design International
  • HarperEntertainment
  • HarperLargePrint
  • HarperResource
  • HarperSanFrancisco
  • HarperTorch
  • Perennial
  • PerfectBound
  • Quill
  • Rayo
  • ReganBooks
  • William Morrow
  • William Morrow Cookbooks

Children’s Books Group

  • Avon
  • Greenwillow Books
  • Joanna Cotler Books
  • Eos
  • Laura Geringer Books
  • HarperAudio
  • HarperCollins Children’s Books
  • HarperFestival
  • HarperTempest
  • Katherine Tegen Books
  • Trophy
  • Zondervan
  • HarperCollins UK
  • HarperCollins Canada
  • HarperCollins Australia

Other

Los Angeles Kings (NHL, 40% option)
Los Angeles Lakers (NBA, 9.8% option)
Staples Center (40% owned by Fox/Liberty)
News Interactive
Fox Sports Radio Network
Sky Radio Denmark
Sky Radio Germany
Broadsystem
Classic FM
Festival Records
Fox Interactive
IGN Entertainment
Mushroom Records
MySpace.com (LOOK! THERE IT IS!)
National Rugby League
NDS
News Outdoor
Nursery World
Scout Media

So any perception that MySpace is just a fun little site run by Tom (who, as you know, is Your Friend! Your First MySpace Friend!) is bullshit. The site is basically a marketing executive’s wet dream. Hundreds of thousands of PRIME SPENDERS talking about music and movies and shit, advertising your music for you, mixing pages full of your advertising in with the list of their friends, all while running multiple banner ads. The rumors about MySpace charging are fucking absurd. They’d probably start paying their heavy users to keep the site up and working. In fact, given that marketing firms are already known to hire full time forum posters and bloggers to do subtle advertising over time means it’s probably already happening. A Place for Friends indeed.

But enough behind-the-scenes wickedness. How about the surface. MySpace is Fucking Ugly. I designed this entire site in about three hours after work one night, modifying an existing theme, using CSS and PHP. AND I DON’T KNOW CSS OR PHP. Even so, this thing looks better than every MySpace page ever. Fuck, the default themes for Blogger look better. Even LiveJournal looks classy compared to that clusterfuck. The site is obscenely cluttered, with two much information packed into poorly sorted boxes. It’s like it was designed by five different web designers, each wanting the page’s focus to be something different, and somehow each of them is the worst designer ever. And as if the default wasn’t horrible enough, people seem to go out of their way to make the worst possible choices when modifying it. A bold background you can’t read text over? YES PLEASE! Pictures so big they distort all the tables and ruin what organization there was? I’ll take THREE! Comment boxes filled with inane gibberish, replies to other posts, inside jokes, and other crap that should have gone in a fucking email? THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER! Idiot results from asinine online quizes which, if you HAVE to post them, should at least be in a blog post and not on the main page? God, I think my plate is full.

And then the music.

Ok, let me break this down for you, back in like, ’93, ’94, embedding a midi into your page was kind of cool. A lot of pages on the Information Superhighway were still text only, since all our modems were slow as hell. So when someone had the space and bandwidth to play a midi, people kind of got a kick out of it. At first. By 1997 it was the kind of thing that only amateurs did. Having a sound file in your page was like a giant flashing banner ad that said “I AM READING HTML FOR DUMMIES!” It wasn’t cool. And by 2000, even those guys had died off. We were NOT taking music into the new millennium. There were always throwbacks. Housewives on eBay who missed the memo. But in general, the millions of people using their computers to listen to MP3s were safe to do so while Surfing the Web. Then MySpace fucking ruined it. They actually intentionally built in a function to play music. WHAT THE FUCK. If we are friends, and you want me to check out a song you like, fine. There’s about 50 ways you can let me hear it. Forcing me to let it load any time I open your page is pretty much The Worst Way.

Finally, the content. There’s no way to say this without coming off like an asshole, so I’m going to go with it. A lot of people are fucking illiterate. My job involves reading and responding to hundreds of emails a day. A large portion of the people out there in cyberspace aren’t really fluent in written English. Back when having a webpage meant coding it yourself, you had to learn at least basic html. This functioned as a barrier to entry. Much like the sign at the fair that keeps people of a certain stature from riding The Zipper, learning html meant that if you wanted to put words on the internet, you had to be able to read and write at say, a 5th grade level. Furthermore, coding the page yourself meant that you had to actually pay some attention to what you were writing. Typos weren’t just hard to read, they kept the page from rendering properly. I’m all for personal expression, but I honestly believe it should come at the price of trying to express yourself coherently.

Here’s a random post from a stranger’s blog:

okay so that black smoke monster thing was weird. eko was just like….standing there. Hmm. bah! and the walt thing, wtf?? he didnt really say anyting exciting. grrr hahhahah

Some things do not need to be written down and shared.

P.S. All those overexposed, weird angle, taking-a-picture-of-myself-in-the-mirror-with-the-worst-camera-ever, pictures? From now on I’m just assuming you’re fat, ugly or deformed.

The Second Part: MySpace Makes the Rest of the Internet Less Cool, Too

This, I have a feeling, is where I’ll lose many of you. Even if you agree that MySpace sucks, it just sucks in a vacuum right? How can one site ruin the internet? Well, I’m going to demonstrate that with an Extremely Clever bit of rhetoric.

I’m going to grant that not every page on MySpace is totally awful. In fact, some really talented and interesting people have pages there, where they share music, art, or just interesting thoughts. Things that really are worth sharing. But, (here’s where it becomes Extremely Clever) how would they be sharing those things if it weren’t for MySpace? There’s a decent chance that many of them would take the time to create a truely personalized website. Rather than filling in someone else’s forms and using someone else’s design, they’d invest the time to actually share themselves.

I’m willing to bet that once these people have commited the energy and effort into making something truely theirs, that the quality of their output would improve in some cases. That they would post more often. That they would be more likely to edit and refine their thoughts, transforming them from the loose notions lingering at the end of the day to worthwhile ruminations. By encouraging people to truely OWN the pages they use to express themselves, you encourage a responsibility and pride in the output. And from there, you hopefully cause an overall increase in quality.

There’s also the issue of format. What impact does it have on a person’s desire to express themselves as individuals when they’re forced to use the exact same format as everyone else. There’s no way to emphasize the things you see as important. Are we losing interesting work from people who are left cold and uninspired by their outlet?

And finally, the impact of context. If post-modernism is going to be remembered in 500 years for anything but extreme cynicism, it is the realization that art cannot be extricated from form. When your distribution method is a target-market advertising and scenie-bopper dating site, it impacts the way people receive your work for the worse.

Part Conclusion

So why do I care? There are plenty of ugly, poorly designed websites out there. Normally, when I hate a site, I just don’t bother using it, like Classmates or MSN. They’re ugly and poorly designed, so I just don’t type in the URL. It should be the same with MySpace. I should just shake my head and walk away. The thing is, people I like are still using the damn thing. My friends are posting thoughts and sharing pictures, and I can’t help but think, every time, that instead of going to a bunch of exciting, attractive, personal sites, I’m having problems loggin in, again. Instead of a personal voice, I have target marketing. Instead of a creative outlet, I have a disaster of design. Instead of personal expression, I have animated gifs and quiz results. Instead of the internet I was so excited about 10 years ago when I taught myself to make a webpage, I have MySpace.