When did MySpace become so dirty?

Take a trip back and remember the clubland that was on the rise in NYC during the eighties and early nineties. Remember? They made a book, a documentary and then a movie about it with Seth Green and MacAulay Culkin and everything (Party Monster). All three pieces of media focused on the life of Michael Alig and his club kids and specifically, the murder of Angel Melendez that seemed to end it all. Now, while Angel’s death is certainly tragic and the effort to cover up the grotesque act is disturbing, I find the whole Clubland culture much more fascinating in general when it comes time to look back in history. Those crazy days of Clubland started off with some “innocent” fun– a bunch of kids dressing up in outrageous costumes and going to the clubs to become famous for being famous. There were substances, of course: alcohol, pot, ecstasy and even Special K, but soon Clubland was filled to the brim with every hard drug out there, young people were addicted and out of control and in the end, Clubland had become this weird, sleazy place with kids– some actually kids, some older trying to act like kids– reveling in some sick sex clown esthetic.

This is what it feels like sometimes on MySpace.

I signed up for a MySpace account a while ago because a friend of mine from high school said I should sign up. Now, I was already on Friendster, Orkut, and inCircle (the Stanford Alumni networking site that was the predecessor to Orkut). And since joining MySpace, I’ve also joined LinkedIn. It never stops and it’s sad really because I never do anything with those accounts after setting them up. Maybe I’ll put a new picture up once in a while when I get a good one, but that’s about it. Most of the time I usually end up using the system to reconnect with old friends. By putting myself out there on as many social networking sites I can, I hope that those I might have lost in touch with for whatever reason might be able to find me (and those I purposely lost touch with can see that I’m doing pretty well for myself). And this has been the case on most of these sites.

But who knew that MySpace would be the place I would reconnect with the most friends from high school and the like? And who knew MySpace with its janky site design (do you hear the circus music?) would beat out its more professional predecessors? Maybe it’s because MySpace, with its Tapioca Express color scheme and breadth of services (even though quantity not quality seems to be the rule here) hit it big when attracting young people to a place where they can easily put together an online profile, develop their own Web presence and use it to do a whole variety of things, from making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, tell each other about what’s going on in their lives, etc. Of course, the biggest thing that has happened is the downright naughtiness that has sprung up and taken over. Browse through the profiles and you’ll see a lot of photos of underage girls willing to show just about anything and equally clad guys just as eager to say anything.

Case in point: when I’m on these networking sites, I usually limit my interactions to those I know in real life and use the service as a way to come together in one virtual space to send notes to each other, let us know what’s going on in each others lives, maybe even introduce mutual friends, etc. It serves as a compliment to my social life in the real world. But now, on MySpace, aside from getting in touch with some old friends I haven’t talked to in almost 10 years, I also get the random messages asking for friendship/answer to a question or just plain out fucking. See, you take away most of the barriers to visibility, access and opportunity and we all just break down to the lowest common demonominator: sex.

Some examples of messages I have received:

Hello there. I ran across your profile on myspace and I think that you are very attractive. Check out my profile to see what you think of me and if you like what you see, you can email me at […] or message me on Yahoo ([…] is my screen name). I hope to hear from you soon.

Which is not that bad. It’s actually very nice. But here’s another one:

i’m checking my heart beats. think i’m missing one—omg…since i’m writing you personally i dont mind saying… you look fucking hot!! i would love to do you some “bad” things;)
anyway i’m not much of a writer but can talk (with an accent though;))
so if you feel comfortable gimme a call sometime. you are invited for milk and cookies;)

Does this work? Do these lines make women drop their panties and just want to fuck? I don’t know. It just seems like to me that no matter how attractive he might think I am, how could he really tell with the picture I have up there? It’s just a head shot and probably one of the more tame pictures out there compared to the naughty naughty stuff 15 and 16 year olds will put up there. Maybe I just have a look about me that invites trouble.

Now, facilitation of more risque (or at least “taboo”) and random sexual experiences has been a tried and true use of the Internet. However, for the most part, when people go on the net looking for “anonymous” sex, they usually try to stay just that: anonymous. They use pseudonyms and screennames, lie about their personal lives (spouses and the like), put up fake photos of themselves. And while people have certainly become more open about using the Internet for these kinds of interactions (just check out the casual encounters section on craigslist), I don’t know if they’re necessarily willing to divulge their identities so openly. But on MySpace, with the exception of the occasional fake celebrity profile, people seem surprisingly willing to a) divulge real and true information about themselves and b) be frank and open about their search for sex. Maybe it’s the simplicity of MySpace that invites a group of people that may be considered less “net savvy” (just take a look at some of the crap people put on their profile pages), but who they are, branch out to reconnect with old friends, and yet still reinvent themselves into something bigger and better and look for a way to meet new people and have new experiences…