Saturday, October 15, 2005

On MySpace and the Future

Wired News has a brief article about the job market for Futurists -- and the lack of any accountability or certification program for those self-professed prophets who purport to interpret the signs and advise businesses which way the wind will blow. I mention this because I think this would be a perfect gig for yours truly, since I love nothing more than to analyze kiddie trends and prognosticate about what will happen when said kids grow up to be the leaders and trendsetters of tomorrow.


[Sorry, I drifted off there for a moment while imagining my son running the World Bank, or Halliburton...]

At any rate, a few weeks ago I was sitting in the hot tub at my gym when I overheard a couple of young men (high-school seniors, I gathered) discussing one of their girlfriends. "Where did you meet her?" asked the first. "MySpace," replied the second, matter-of-factly. "Oh, cool," said the first, without much further thought.

Meeting a mate online is nothing new, but when most adults (people over thirty-five, say) describe such a meeting, they inevitably effect a tone somewhere between salaciousness and wonderment -- "He met her on the Internet" -- implying that this is still an exotic and perhaps not-entirely-savory way to meet someone. I was, therefore, particularly struck by the casual affect of the young man; he may as well have been describing a meeting in school, or at the mall.

MySpace is the hottest of the social networking sites on the web (other popular sites include Friendster and Orkut). Basically, these are sites where you can set up your own personal website, with pictures, music, links to your interests, passions, sexual preferences, favorite color, and anything else you'd like others to know about you. On MySpace, you also get your own MySpace blog linked to your Profile, as well as a linked email account and instant messenger.

Most importantly, everyone you know who's on the network can join your "friends" list, so it's easy to quickly acquire a large network of "friends," some of whom are no more than people who 1. have a profile you find interesting and 2. agree to accept your "friend request." Of course, all your friends become the friends of all your friends as well, and their friends' friends become friends of friends of friends...

The whole "Friends" network can get pretty big pretty fast, which is sort of the point. On MySpace, you can quickly feel that you're part of a larger community. Networks of friends can keep in touch about what's happening on The OC or where to find out about tattoos.

Built into the system is the power to peruse the massive database for potential romantic partners, too. MySpace allows you to do searches by zip code, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, and a variety of keywords. You can find all the 25-27 year-old slender/slim vegetarians within fifty miles of you who are into mountain biking, or Matisyahu (The Hassidic Reggae Superstar), or (all over MySpace) Adult Swim.

Now, this wasn't the first time MySpace had intruded into my consciousness, but the casual way these particular kids referenced the site was a major wakeup call for me. I chatted with them a bit about the site, and from the discussion it was clear to me that this site was a huge part of their lives. So I started paying attention to the MySpace meme, and once I started looking I found MySpace showing up wherever teenagers were prevelant.

The Next Big Thing is happening right now! I figured I'd better get right over there and investigate...

Up next: What I learned about MySpace, young people, and our future (Hint: it's brighter than you think)


Anonymous said...

Related to people connecting via the internet is the incredible uprising of text messaging, especially among the high school and college crowd. The limtatiions of email - still not fast enough and somehow too formal (!!!) - are apparant and alternatives are avalable and still being developed.

PeaceLove said...

Absolutely true. I don't really use texting much, but I know it has exploded here in the last few years. It was widely embraced in Europe and Asia even before it was embraced here, although I think a lot of what drove its use there was the ridiculous cost of phone calls and "pay as you go" Internet service.