Friday, April 14, 2006

MySpace and the mall: dangers and deception


MySpace.

Marketing bloggers are telling us to "study" this "phenomenon" to understand why it's so popular and successful. Some say that businesses should pay attention to what's going on in MySpace. Maybe business can milk MySpace bloggers and networks for cash. I'm not interested.

I put MySpace in the category of crystal meth, Harry Potter, gangsta (criminal/misogynist) rap, game shows, and similar "popular" substances and events.

What's garbage to me may be treasure to you. But having had a blog on MySpace for a while (it's still there, but dormant), I know what I saw. Perversion. Depravity. Promiscuity. No thanks. Look at the ads. Look at the profile photos. Losers.

MySpace is not a blog platform. It's a dating service, organized by users, for users. It's heralded by the teens themselves as a "hook-up" site, a new, fast, and easy way to meet people. But are the people you "meet" really who and what they say they are?

I'm very opinionated about predators and parents who are negligent.

Let me end this rant with an anecdote from my own life.

Yesterday my wife went with her daughter, Kathy, and little boy, Andrew, to the mall. Andrew suddenly vanished. He had wandered off as Andrea and Kathy were shopping and talking, assuming that Andrew was tagging along nearby. He wasn't.

That's the first mistake, not being mindful.

So my wife goes looking for him, and spies him all the way outside the store, by the entrance, talking to a guy about 36 years old. Andrew is 6 years old. Andrew was wearing a Cardinals baseball team tee shirt. The old geezer was saying to Andrew, as my wife approached, "I really like that tee shirt you're wearing."

My wife yanked Andrew away and scolded him for wandering off and talking to a stranger. When she asked him what he would have done if that man had grabbed him, and rushed him off to his car, Andrew said, "I don't know."

Second mistake: not fully instructing the child, with "what if...?" scenarios, and practice sessions on how to shout for help, and inflict pain on the abductor, for a brief chance to escape.

Andrew didn't even know that he should scream "I'm being kidnapped! Help me! I don't know this person! I'm being kidnapped! My mom's in Famous Barr women's apparel, petite", kick, bite, and get away from the kidnapper!

If you're not alarmed at that, it proves you either don't care about child safety, or you pay no attention to Amber Alerts, Oprah, or Dateline.

Not in a million years does a man compliment another person on their clothing, unless he has an ulterior reason. And even more rarely does a man compliment another man on his clothing. Still more unusual is a grown man complimenting a little child on the child's attire.

"Nice sweater" a guy says to a pretty lady, generally accompanied by a wish to see what's under the sweater. "Nice tie" she says, referring to what the tie is pointing to. Not in every case, mind you, but in a large percentage of cases, this is true. Ask any guy, any straight guy, I mean.

You may get angry with me now, and claim the 36 year old guy was merely a Cardinals fan, and meant no harm. Why was he talking to a little boy, who had clearly wandered away from his guardians? Not cool. Not smart. Not typical.

Stick your head in the sand, if you wish.

But all the mothers whose children are kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered, they all say, "I just could not believe this would ever happen to MY child. Things like that happen, it's true, but I could never expect it might happen to me or my family."

If you seriously think you're somehow immune, you're nuts.

MySpace is a dating service site that's crawling with deception and danger. Whatever "good" aspects it may have, it is like the local shopping mall, library, or public park. Good people go to these places for innocent purposes. But also: predators hang out there, looking for vulnerable victims.

Telling children and teens the facts is not enough. Watching news reports together is not enough. Dr. Phil and Oprah and Montel are not enough. Even Andy Rooney can't save us.

Parents need to look at what their children and teens are doing. Not to be domineering, tyrannical, or nosey. But to protect and to know exactly what's going on. It's not about "trust". It's about stupidity, negligence, and cluelessness. Ask any parent whose child was stolen and brutalized.

The MySpace frenzy reminds me of the China frenzy. I'm not buying it. They both suck.

3 comments:

IMO, Xian said...

You know that I am a fan of MySpace and you have heard me defend it, but I will do it again, as you refuse to acknowledge the positive aspects of this phenomenon.

It is a networking platform primarily, and a blogging platform secondarily. As with any tool, like a car, it can be used irresponsibly and it can be used violently, but it can also be used positively.

1) Myspace is an ideal medium for small-scale promotions.
Local musicians, for whome MySpace was originally intended, use it a great deal and with great success, promoting themselves and having an easily accessable way to show others their music and their next show dates. A fun way to find out if a show one has heard of is worth going to, is looking up the bands on myspace and listening to a sample of their songs; regardless of how small a band, the band will have a myspace page as it is free and convenient.
As a side benefeit, organizations and businesses can use it toward a similar end. The Wired Coffee shop that I frequent has a myspace page (http://www.myspace.com/wiredcoffee), which they use to keep 'friends' updated about open mic nights, a much beloved barrista moving away, and provide a way to find a fellow patron.

2) Myspace, as a networking tool, is not inherantly evil.
Yes, myspace is a realization of one of our hopes and fears of the future, the destruction of borders created by space and bias. Though it may be awkward for me to initiate conversation with a person whose only connection to me is that they are at the same coffee shop as me, it is infinately more appealing to find their myspace site (as they will undoubtedly be a friend of the coffee shop as well) and send them a no-pressure, no-obligation message. "Hey, I see you at Wired all the time, and I couldn't help but overhear that you're into [whatever]."
With this convenience comes the evil of sexual predators, which, I understand, are waiting behind every bush, but it is the other edge of the double edged sword which, at the same time, can be responsible for a great many things.

3) I ran out of time.

steven edward streight said...

Christian:

Your highly developed writing skills, and studied opinions, are always welcome.

You are the one writer I know of that seems full of great potential, whether in business, literature, or any other field. Smart and funny, and sometimes surreal.

It might be interesting to do a history of MySpace, how it evolved from a music band promo site to a sleazy sexual slimepit.

I ventured into MySpace with a "blog" there, and quickly abandoned it, due to the pornographic ads and the come-ons I kept receiving from dubious "girls".

I consider your MySpace site different from most others there, and never wish to offend you.

But if there are serious, non-hook up blogs in MySpace, I didn't see any.

MySpace reminds me of a glittery nightmare shopping mall, full of deception and depravity.

It's sad to think that a social media site would degenerate into very risky behaviors and porn mongering.

I got very sexual messages, like "you can fuck me if you want, do you like to fuck?" and etc., when my MySpace site was openly opposed to porn and was condemning Mr. Murdoch for sponsoring such a mess.

While American teens are slipping further and further into low status in the world market, unable to compete in math, science, and communication skills...they waste their time "connecting" with others who care more about music bands and hooking up, than school work and post-school success.

This is another aspect of MySpace that is suspect.

America is in decline, intellectually.

Your intelligence seems oddly out of place, incongruently bizarre, over there in MySpace.

IMO, Xian said...

One aspect of Myspace that you completely missed in your playfull jaunt, is the networking potential. You like my blog and you say I am a good writer. You should assume that, as a good writer I would have friends who are also good writers. I think I'm a pretty good writer, sure, but the blogs of some of my friends are much better, and you can find them by browsing through my list of friends which is prominently displayed on my page. Some examples are below.
Myspace is intended to try break boundries and bring people together. You can do things like join a group of alumni for your school in order to hunt down old friends, search for people with similar interests or who like the same music, etc, blah blah blah. Basicly, it's every bit as good and bad in every way that the internet is. There are blogging groups on myspace and there are kids that want to party like they wanted to when it was 1999 but they still had curfew and there are chainletters and there are occasional propositions and there are get rich quick schemes and there are poets, struggling artists, no-good hack pretenders, corporate drones, and homeless people. MySpace is a microcosm, and a new and effective medium that runs parallel to blogging platforms, because, honestly, a serious blogger isn't married to myspace, but also runs in a category all its own because of its continuous explosion of networking power and potential. Myspace is the future, and I say it with the assurance that I would have said cellphones are the future 20 years ago. Checking for mail in your myspace account on your cellphone is the future. Where I used to overhear and take part in cellphone number exchanges at parties, coffee shops, and gatherings, I hear "do you have myspace? Oh, then I'll find you." way more often. Maybe because there's no subscription fee?

some myspace bloggers

One of my favorite myspace blogs, because myspace blogs are usually observational and strictly editorial/personal, but this one is informative, interesting, and has all the awesomeness that comes from a writer who may or may not be abusing amphetamines; http://www.myspace.com/paracelsus

"Since your pool of individuals to choose from is larger, than say your school or neighborhood, you have more choices. Also you can whittle away at your friends- so you find ones that interest you. Does that sound mercenary?" -- http://www.myspace.com/milk_please
A crazy but profesional myspace blog promotor who I hate for no good reason; http://www.myspace.com/bryantmcgill

sometimes plagued with uninteresting journalistic selfreferencialism, but generally wonderful for all the reasons blogging is beautifull; http://www.myspace.com/markpaulharwood

Also a cooky and unique catalogueing of the human experiance, but with more attention to the reader; http://www.myspace.com/thehousethatjackbuilt

Look at how amazingly crazy and complicated my exgirlfriend is!http://www.myspace.com/robocrush and then compare her blog to my current girlfriend's blog http://www.myspace.com/kmackenzieg

Learn about Preemptive-postapocalypticism at the funny and informative blog belonging to http://www.myspace.com/urbanscout

Read the blog of my wannabe-fictionwriting friend who lives the life of pain, carousing, and soul-sucking extravagance from the unique perspective of being a perpetually culture-shocked child of hippies, literally raised in a teepee on the great plains; http://www.myspace.com/countzero

Also of interest, one can make their profile only available to friends if they set their age at 14.