Thursday, December 21, 2006

MySpace: The (Next) Final Frontier

I am Time’s Person of the Year. And so are you. In fact, just about everyone is, except my dad and David Sedaris, who are both totally uninterested—and maybe even against—the electronic revolution that is the Internet. Personally, I’m thrilled, since I plan on adding the honor to my resume.
Lev Grossman, Time’s magazine and technology writer and book critic explains, “For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you." As someone who’s been publishing one thing or another on the Web since 1999, I can’t decide if I think it’s about damn time, or if this is the laziest thing Big Media has done since failing to fact check James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. I am certain, though, that sites like Wikipedia, YouTube and MySpace have irreversibly warmed the digital globe, and you can drive your Vaseline-powered car all you like. We’re still in big trouble.
My own digital climate warmed to what I refuse to call the blogosphere with the advent of companies like Blogger and MoveableType. Although I also refused, until now, to use any of the available technologies to post my own content to the Web, and insisted on banging out my own bad HTML, I was delighted to watch other undiscovered writers use fledgling but leading edge technologies to reach an audience that wouldn’t have otherwise found such deserving talent. And even though I think that the term “social networks” sounds like something that requires a prescription antibiotic salve, and even though I’d rather adopt Jerry Falwell’s philosophies on reproductive rights than hear someone use the term “Web 2.0” again, and even though the simple act of asking if someone blogs triggers my gag reflex a little, I found myself at a reception for the winners of a certain contest, unable to stop my mouth from forming the words, “Do you have a blog?”
Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather talk to a writer face to face than read something he’s written about himself, although writers don’t always love talking to me—sometimes I’m a little too, “Gosh, isn’t it great that we’re all writers and stuff?” The way they push me away from them after I’ve taken both their hands in mine and swayed back and forth singing "Dahoo Foress" with more enthusiasm than Cindy Lou Who reminds me of why VH1 will never film the series Behind the Book.
For the most part, writers are content—-no, compelled—-to sit very quietly in front of either a computer or a pad of paper until blind, in part doing their work, and in part reveling in the simple fact that they’re doing something that no one else wants any part of. For most of us, solitary confinement is not the price of being a writer; it’s a perk. I’m smack dab in the middle of Myers’ and Briggs’ introvert/extrovert designation, and so minutes after meeting a writer I’ve always wanted to meet, I make a hasty retreat to my computer so that I can write something about how Tom Robbins’ eyes were so red that I’m surprised he could read through them, or how I almost actually burst into tears after Alice Walker threw my event program back at me and spat, “I’m not signing this.”
As someone who knows that I’m going to have to actually speak in front of and meet other people to “press the flesh” once my own book is out, I see the newest wave of the electronic revolution for what it is: A way of reaching out without going out. I admit also to the mildly embarrassing trait of being a bloghound because blogs aren’t just instantly gratifying literature in a hurry, they are literature afflicted with a combination of ADD, narcissistic personality disorder and maybe a dash of Alzheimer’s. Considering that I married someone with the same qualities, it’s no wonder why I’m drawn to them.
And now, to add to that list of my more unfortunate qualities, I’m spellbound by yet another meeting place on the Web that I never intended to even drive by in the first place. On the scale of embarrassing traits, I’ve done something that registers between having hemorrhoids and owning a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch CD. For the record, I don’t have hemorrhoids or a Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch CD. Anymore. I do, however, love my account a little too much.
At the reception where I met some writers who were like me, and some writers who were more like writers, I asked someone about his blog. As it turns out, he’s got one, at his page. William L. Bryan looked normal and nice enough and all, and so I thought that maybe I should give this MySpace movement a chance too, totally forgetting that making assumptions about what the nice, normal guy’s doing is always how the nice, normal girl in the movie ends up on heroin while the roomful of men crowded around her chant, “Ass to ass!” (Bonus points if you can name the movie that goes with the quote.)
The up side is that I have a whole new avenue for avoiding work. The down side is that I suppose I’m going to have to start using “friend” as a verb and “add” as a noun, while trying to decide who my favorite Pussycat Doll is. It appears that when someone accepts my invitation of friendship, I’m supposed to leave a comment on my new friend’s page, including a giant graphic of my boobs that says, “Thanks for the add!” This I cannot do.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate giant ads animated with graphics and colors that hurt my eyes. I do. I also adore messages that command me to CliCk HERE for ~~~<3 tEeN <3~~~**pR0n**!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s just that I will be busy for a while fighting this uneasy feeling that I should start combing Craigslist for a ride to Burning Man and considering—I just said consider, let’s not go crazy—joining a colony of people with “alternative lifestyles.”
I do have the sudden urge to glue my caps lock key into their “on” position, so that you’ll know HOW SERIOUS I AM WHEN I E-MAIL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! And, if you haven’t noticed, be forewarned that I plan on ending each sentence with at least a dozen exclamation points—OR MORE IF YOU’VE POSTED A BLOG ENTRY THAT HAS ANGERED ME!!!!!!!!!! But when I’m joking, you’ll know it, by God, because of the failsafe measures provided by the smiley emoticon followed by everyone’s favorite acronym: LOL.
But first I need to get my shit together because, if nothing else, I’m still completely confused about who I am. What kind of a MySpace person am I? Do I look like I’m taking myself too seriously? Am I taking myself seriously enough? Am I the attention-whoring, comment-mongering, look-how-many-friends-I-have MySpace user? Or do I plan to populate my friends list with celebrities who are not really talking to me when they post bulletins that sound like they’re talking to me? (And damn, Jeremy Piven, why do you have to be such a dick about your friends list?) There are inanimate entities here: Books, magazines and events to invite to this MLM, pyramid scheme-type of friendship building. There are the garage bands, the comedians, even though I will probably not see any of them live in concert anytime soon. Do I want to add them anyway? Or am I the kind of user who will end up using her MySpace community solely to schlep something?
I don’t suppose it matters right this second. Maybe, as Sally Field mewed a long, long time ago, you will like me, really like me. After all, I am Time’s Person of the Year. Or maybe you won’t like me, but you are in my extended network. I’m pretty sure.