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ENGL 323

A look at MySpace.com: What is all of the buzz about?

By: Katie Kemmerer

Watch out Google. A new kid is in town, by the name of MySpace. This website is quickly gaining notoriety for having the some highest numbers of hits per day, almost 2 ½ more times than that of Google.

But what exactly is MySpace?

“MySpace is a public profile you can create about yourself in any way you want. You can visit friends' profiles, leave comments, and send messages. It's a really fun way of keeping in touch with friends and meeting new people,” explains Nikki Popek, 20, of Hanover, Pennsylvania. Myspace is indeed, just that. According to Wikipedia.com, MySpace is a “social networking website offering an interactive network of photos, blogs, user profiles, groups, and an internal e-mail system”.

Is MySpace the first of its kind?

Sounds like a simple idea, right? It is, and it is an idea that was thought of before. In fact, Friendster Inc. came first. In early 2003, Friendster Inc. introduced a system that connects people for networking and dating through existing circles of friends, rather than randomly or by keyword matches alone. But just a half-year after MySpace launched, it surpassed Friendster in monthly visitors and now ranks 13th among all sites, according to Nielsen/NetRatings ( http://technologyreview.com/).

What makes MySpace so popular?

It is now known that over 40 million users are registered on a MySpace account, dominately those of the younger generation. Why is this particular social network passing all the others at such a high rate? One may be able to blame it merely on chance. As noted in an interview by Technology Review magazine, ''I noticed a lot of my friends talking about it, so I went on it and signed up,'' said Magda Olszanowski, 24, a University of Toronto senior. ''And I've really pressured my friends who don't have it to get it.'' Perhaps it is just this word of mouth that helped push MySpace into the realm of Internet superstars.

MySpace: The newest addiction

When searching for information on the infamous MySpace, it is hard to ignore the number of people that claim a full-on “addiction” to the site. “I literally can't make it a day without checking it. I have gotten out of bed late at night just to check it out, and make sure I'm not missing anything!” says Coughlin High School senior, Megan Sapak. It is easy to see why. With groups ranging from “Party Crews” to “Skateboard Addicts” to “I Survived Cancer”, it is a continual and ever-evolving social scene.

Trouble in MySpace Land

Like anything else, MySpace isn't without its share of problems. One of the most glaring is the increase of indecent photos being posted. With members only needing to be fourteen years old, it is alarmingly easy to stumble across a very suggestive site. As noted by Dateline.com, while browsing through MySpace.com, they “ found scenes of binge drinking, apparent drug use, teens posing in underwear, and other members simulating sex”. All of which is concerning parents. “I won't even let my daughter near it. It just seems like you're asking for trouble when you get involved with things like that,” says Diane Kennedy, mother of a 15-year-old, Rachel. “It's bad news.”

Bullies…Even on MySpace

Bullies aren't just on the playground anymore. Turns out, more and more young people are complaining of getting made fun of and being threatened while being on MySpace. "Bullying in real life makes you scared," Parry Aftab, Internet lawyer and safety expert said, "Cyber bullying makes you paranoid. You can't hide from it. You can be at Grandma's house in Florida, and it's going to follow you when you turn on your computer." Parents and schools have had to step up to counteract this harassment. For example, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, St. Thomas Aquinas High suspended over a dozen students for inappropriate comments on MySpace.com.

The Hidden Predators

Perhaps most frightening is the ease in which you can delve into someone's personal, everyday life. In addition to listing common things like favorite bands and their age, some post very private details of their lives—right down to after school schedules and cell phone numbers. Parry Aftab refers to MySpace as “ one stop shopping for sexual predators”. Without proper supervision by parents, it is all too easy to be sucked up in the MySpace whirlwind. Aftab continues, “The teens just don't get it. To them, they're talking to a computer monitor. They're playing in an area where they don't recognize the consequences.” ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com )

The MySpace Generation

It seems as though the MySpace trend is still in its beginning stages. When used for the correct purposes, MySpace can be a fun and entertaining way to express one's self and meet and contact friends. But when this falls in the wrong hands, MySpace.com has the potential to be extremely dangerous. It is up to the users to be aware of the risks one takes by putting personal information on the Internet. And as for the parents, it is their responsibility to know what their kids are doing the hours they spend in front of the computer. As Kim Mazauskas says, "Our kids are more technologically advanced than we are," Mazauskas said. "We as parents need to know what's going on so we know how to protect our kids." ( www.palmbeachpost.com )


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