Networks of Mass Distraction: MySpace

I had written yesterday about the reasons behind my decision to disconnect from Facebook. In reality, it’s more about disengaging from social media in general. I find social networks are useful tools for staying up-to-date with friends and family but I began to see I was spending far too much time engaging all the while not accomplishing tasks I set for myself. While the tragedy in Orlando may have been the catalyst for my departure, the true reasons for my wanting to take a break have more to do with the distractions Facebook provided in general.

That said, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to elaborate on my experiences with the social networks I’ve used up to this point. I had originally intended this to be a single post but by the time I got through writing my experiences and impressions of MySpace alone, I realized it would be far too long. Therefore, I will simply be writing a series of posts on these Networks of Mass Distraction which will cover MySpace, Facebook, and Google+.

Myspace home page

My first foray into social networking was with MySpace back when I was in high school. I didn’t have internet access at my house at the time so I would have to go to my friend Chad Woods’ house to go online. We would sit in the family room as Chad played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the original Xbox and I would surf the web on my Compaq Presario laptop. While I originally spent my time browsing imageboards and Star Wars forums, once I had discovered MySpace it had begun to dominate my online time.

Initially I had used it to connect to close friends and family but I quickly started connecting with fellow students from Ajo High School as well as relatives I hadn’t seen in years. As much as this was my first experience with a social network, it was also my first practical application of the HTML and CSS I had learned in class. MySpace allowed its users to add custom CSS elements in order to create really intricate profile designs but instead they mostly created atrocities. My own profile wasn’t as bad as some of the others at that time but I can’t help but look back at it and cringe.

Myspace profile page

My friends and I would use Firefox to download Flash games from websites so we could play offline in class. I remember wanting to embed some Flash versions of classic arcade games on my profile but was unable to do so. If I recall correctly, the original host of these games did not permit the embedding of their content. I ended up downloading the SWF files for Pac-Man, Tetris, Pong, and Space Invaders then uploading them to a third-party host and embedding from there.

In those days I didn’t even consider buying server space and instead relied on companies that offered their services for free. In this case I used Fileden.com to host all the files I’d refer to in my profile template. I also had a track from Sam and Max: Season One called The Office playing in the background. Since MySpace wouldn’t play MP3s in the template, I ended up converting it to an SWF file which I uploaded to Fileden and hid on my profile as a single-pixel speck.

I ended up leaving MySpace because there was no good way of sifting through all the posts friends generated. That and, frankly, the number of people asking me to fill out surveys was becoming ridiculous. There was also a function called Top Friends in which you would designate your top ten friends which would be prominently displayed on your profile. Over time MySpace would increase the number of Top Friends you could have but this caused completely unnecessary drama. I remember having relatives upset with me because I didn’t consider them my top friends as if it were so prestigious. At this point the comparatively unpopulated Facebook began to look more and more attractive.