I get questions at work from students and parents every so often about a website called "MySpace." [For the unintiated (read, "for those who have lives"), MySpace is an independent Internet bulletin board that provides cookie-cutter-type webpages with the ability to personalize, blog, send mail within the system, post bulletins, and create a list of "friends" within the MySpace realm.] I was introduced to it by a family member about a year ago. I didn't know what would happen there--I thought it was a neat little thing to try. Within two weeks, I received several dozen "Friend Requests" from people I soon found to be students at my school. It became very clear to me very quickly that having my little "icon" on their page of "friends" was some sort of status thing. The down side of it all was that it left other people--adults with whom I had been communicating--to wonder if I was really a 36-year-old professional instead of some 14-year-old masquerading.
The parents, of course, really have no idea what's going on in there. Drinking and drug references, allusions to sexual behavior, even threats. When I do get asked by parents about it, their questions are either very basic ("What is this thing, anyway?") or they want me to reassure them that their students will not be raped and murdered by some 59-year-old weirdo posing as a high school student. [Note: MySpace did make the news over a year ago when a young girl was lured to her demise by some sick psycho; some blamed the website and wanted to see it shut down. While a tragedy, to be sure, I don't think that MySpace was to blame. It wasn't long ago that a young woman was lured away from a car wash and killed, but you don't see the whole of America calling for the close of every car wash in the country.] It's this kind of paranoia that makes me a little hesitant to use the page much, as I don't want perception, misinformed as it may be, to infect my career. I don't shut the page down because, quite simply, the terrorists win if you give in to fear.
Long story short, I don't get much use out of my MySpace page anymore (but since people my age only seem to be using it for dating opportunites and such, I've really lost interest). Students will still approach me and ask, incredulously, "Do you really have a MySpace??" I don't know if it's absolutely necessary for them to ask as if I couldn't possibly be young enough to operate a computer (or have a life, for that matter), but they do. Then they search, and they find me, and they use my little cartoon icon to show that I'm their "friend." For a website called "My"Space, I don't seem to have much ownership of my identity there anymore.Some parts of the Internet are good sources for quality information, but if the Internet really is a digital version of life itself, then let's be realistic: if we're going to have artificial intellgence, there's bound to be some artifical stupidity, as well. As far as I'm concerned, MySpace is akin to my horoscope: for entertainment purposes only.