Is MySpace revolutionary?

Two weeks ago I kicked off a series on the most popular online destination in the world – MySpace.  While I had read a lot about MySpace, I had never been there myself, so I figured it was time for me to dive in head first find out first hand what all the buzz is about.  Here’s a bit of my journey and what I learned along the way.

Getting Started
I started by creating my profile.  Thanks to some of our regular blog readers who are already on MySpace, I had 17 “friend requrests” by the end of my first day.  For those of you not familiar with MySpace, certain aspects of your profile can be public while parts can be kept private where only your “friends” can see them.  A person becomes your friend when one of you makes a “friend request” and the other person accepts it.  I accepted all friend requests sent to me.  I don’t recommend doing this, and I’ll explain why next week, but I wanted to see the good and the bad of MySpace for myself.

Some folks were kind enough to post a comment on my site.  Others peoeple sent me a private message welcoming me to MySpace.  If you are one of those people, thanks – that was nice.

Going Deeper
Later I updated my profile adding information about the high school and college I attended.  MySpace has a cool feature which lets you search for other people who are attending or have attended the same schools.  I was disappointed to find there were only about a dozen people out of my college graduating class of nearly 1,000 in MySpace.  I managed to find one guy I knew and sent him a message.  Haven’t heard back yet.  Couldn’t find anyone I knew from high school.

To be honest I was a bit disapointed and bored.

Breaking down the hype
There’s a lot of hype about MySpace these days.  Some say it’s the best thing since Pong.  Others say it’s just a silly teenage fad.  From a purely technical standpoint MySpace is far from revolutionary.

A MySpace profile is really nothing more than your basic personal homepage like you could create on OurChurch.Com with our Beacon web builder or any number of other sites.  You can post pictures just like a photo gallery on a conventional website.  You can blog just like a conventional website.  People can post comments just as they do in a traditional guestbook.  And just like a personal homepage, people can customize their MySpace profile with horribly unreadable combinations of colors and background images (ha ha.)

The power of MySpace
The power of MySpace is in the way it facilitates interaction between people (i.e. social networking.)

The “friends” feature allows you to keep pictures, comments, blogs, and more private so only people you know can see them.  Technically, you could do that with a traditional website, but it would require a CMS (content management system).

The bulletin feature allows you to broadcast a message to all your friends as well as see messages your friends have broadcast.  You could do that with a mass email distribution, but this is much simpler.

You can send messages, instant message, participate in forum discussions on every topic imaginable, create groups, share your calendar, and more.

None of these features is in itself revolutionary, but the fact that MySpace is a platform that integrates all these social/communications tools into one place is pretty cool.  If your friends and family are on MySpace you really have no need to go anywhere else.  No need for a personal website, a blog, a photo sharing site, email, IM, forums, chat rooms, and probably some other tools I haven’t thought of yet.

This is a big reason why MySpace is so appealing to teens.  They have a lot of friends and spend a lot of time socializing.  MySpace gives them one central place with all the tools they need to communicate and express themselves.  And just about everyone they know is there.

However, if a quorum of your friends and family aren’t on MySpace (as probably is the case for most people over the age of 30) then it really loses most of its power and appeal.  It’s essentially an issue of critical mass.

Moving Forward
That’s my take on MySpace from more of a technical standpoint.  Are there any really cool features (or flaws) that I missed?  Post a comment and let me know. 
 
You probably noticed that this week I stayed away from the moral and safety issues related to MySpace.  That was intentional because next week I’m going to tackle the question, “Is MySpace safe for kids or adults?” 

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

20 Responses to “Is MySpace revolutionary?”

  1. Thanks for your piece.

    Care of the Soul has been offering Internet Safety Rallies with county sheriffs offering tips to stave off predators. Quite effective.

  2. I was one of those that added you to my friend list very quickly. I feel there is too much garbage on there for kids. They post pictures of themselves on there in suggestive poses and give out way too much personal information. It is a perfect world for a pervert or pedofile to thrive in. Most of these teens are oblivious to any of these things. It is all about them. Take a look at my site. I try to enfluence them with positive reflections on current ideals. You should have received a couple of my bulletins by now. God bless and keep on writing!

    John S.

  3. Melba Elledge Aug 22, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    I found your investigation of MySpace interesting and helpful.
    I feel that God wants me to start a web page, but I don’t know if there are those that are free. I’m not sure about a Blog page either. And if Myspace or a blog would fill the bill of a web page. Praying for God’s will.

  4. Well I for one have been using it, but its not something special, some family and friends use it so we share that way.

    As for the one needing web space, you can get free webhosting anywhere, matter of fact keep your eye on this page here and you can get some free hosting now and then at http://www.bobmullinsonline.com

  5. I don’t if I missed it in any of your Myspace articles, but another cool feature is that you can know who is online (just like when people use Messanger (Instant Messaging services.) Another, feature is the slide show. I went to vacation and my friends got to see some slides of my trip to Puerto Rico.
    (I hope I am not repeating something you might have already mentioned.)

    God bless you.

    Nathan

  6. Paul:
    I like the idea of communication with “the world”.
    Can Myspace be used for subtle evangelism?
    Are all your “friends” believers? How would you go about doing it.
    Jim

  7. I will have to agree with Jim. I like the idea of communication with “the world”. And yes we can and we are using myspace as part of our evangelism. My husband and I are Youth Directors and we use it to know what are kids are up to. This way we get to see just who they are and what are their weaknesses, so God can use us in a deeper depth with them. There are probably some bad things about myspace, but aren’t there bad things in our every day lives? It is called temptations! Some say the devil gives them to us, but God tests us with them also! We as adults have to be there to keep our kids on the right track. Every day they are faced with choices that lead to the negatives in life. But if they are taught right from wrong, prayed for, and given an example of then there shouldn’t be a problem. I think all parents need a myspace! People are fast to stop and criticize and I am not saying you are. Thank you for checking up on myspace, it is adults like you who are needed every day!

  8. I am on Myspace. My page leaves no shadow of a doubt to any visitor that I am a Christian. I also now use the feature that allows your profile to be private, that is anyone who is not on my friends list cannot see my page or my blogs. Also, there is a feature that allows blogs to be private and only able to be read by people on your friends list. I totally agree that kids post too much personal information and that a lot of pictures that are posted are not monitored as it should be. BUT I feel that if kids are taught to use the internet safely and are warned about being safe while instant messaging, blogging, etc, we would not have the problems we have today. There is something strange if a parent doesn’t have this type of discussion with their kids – because it is exactly the same as teaching them about not talking to strangers! Young kids need to be supervised when using the internet, and I agree that they should not be on myspace, or even have their own private email address! Train your kids, because it is not just myspace, it’s the internet in general! Instant messengers and email can be just as dangerous. I have gotten double or even triple the amount of disgusting emails and requests to chat from perverts on my istant messenger than I do on myspace.

  9. You didn’t mention “groups”. Have you tried joining any groups on MySpace yet? It’s another popular feature on there.

    And those of you talking about a free Homepage…doesn’t ourchurch.com offer 10 pages for free, or have they stopped doing that?

  10. I have mixed emotions about the MySpace. A Youth Minister introduced it to the youth group. Most of these kids did not know about it yet, although some were familar with it. I checked it out and I had no desire for my child to go on it. It led to some horrible talking – bad language and suggestive content, suggestive pictures, etc. There were some kids that had decent pages, but like some have already said, they give way too much information out about themselves.

  11. BROTHER PAUL,
    I AGREE THAT THE YOUTH OF AMERICA AND THE WORLD SHOULD BE MONITERED BY THIER PARENTS. PARENTS, YOU NEED TO EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN. I AGREE W/ PRISCILLA ON ALL COUNTS BUT ONE. IT’S NOT GOD TESTING US. IT IS SATAN TEMPTING US BECAUSE HE KNOWS OUR WEAKNESS’.
    TO FIND WHERE TO START A FREE WEB PAGE SIMPLY DO A SEARCH ON “FREE WEBSITES”. I FOUND MINE BY USING “FREE CHRISTIAN WEBSITES”.
    RIDIN’ WITH J.C. & THE GUYS,
    TREY

  12. Hi,
    I want to make a point about myspace that I don’t know if you are aware of or not. I have a teenage Daughter and over the summer she spent hours on myspace, talking to people that she doesn’t even know. You see what they do is play this thing called role playing (They are considered Role Players or RP for short) They pretend that they are movie stars or whatever and they make up fictional lives. I don’t think it is healthy for them to be doing it, and my Daughter is addicted to it. I have tried to keep her time on the computer short, but I work at nights, so it is hard. So when you investigate myspace you might want to to check into the role players that are on the site. Also not to mention that a lot of the content on myspace is not suitable for adults as much as children. The language that is used on their as well as the videos that are placed on their also. I personally don’t like the site. I am sure that it was intended for good, but it has gotten a little carried away.

  13. Thanks to everyone who has posted a comment so far. Let me respond to a few…

    Melba, OurChurch.Com provides free websites. For more information go to http://www.ourchurch.com/hosting/ To start building a free site click the “Build a Site” link in the menu.

    Nathan, you’re right IM (instant messaging) is another useful communication tool integrated into MySpace.

    Jenn B, I haven’t checked out the groups yet. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Even though this article was about the technical aspects of MySpace it’s interesting that the conversation has shifted to the moral/safety issues. Seems like that’s the issue at the forefront of most people’s minds when it comes to MySpace, especially for people who are Christians and/or parents. That’s why we’ll be talking about that aspect of MySpace next week.

    Keep the comments coming! Whether about the technical aspects or the moral/safety issues, they’re all welcome.

  14. One more thing… The tendancy when people comment is to speak in generalities. People say kids reveal too much about themselves, they use inappropriate language, the post suggestive pictures about themselves, and so on. Nothing wrong with speaking in generalities in your comments here. However, I would be interested to see specific examples.

    If you can point me to specific examples of the good or bad aspects of MySpace, I would greatly appreciate it. If you don’t feel comfortable posting an example here in a public comment you can send it me via our help desk at http://www.ourchurch.com/support/

  15. To me, MySpace is to internet homepages what AOL is to internet access. It looks bad, it functions poorly, but almost everybody and their brother uses it.

    They also don’t know any better. They don’t realize how insecure the information posted on there is (when there are identity theft warnings all over the place any more…you can’t write code that prevents stupidity), and many don’t even care who their “friends” are as long as it makes them popular. So strike that, it’s everything I hated about AOL and high school wrapped into one.

    However, to the average computer user, the alternatives (like WordPress or other blogging tools) seem complicated and technical. For as comfortable as the “new generation” is said to be “comfortable with technology”, most are still afraid of anything that takes the least amount of effort or computer know-how. I can assure you that anyone who writes anything worth reading isn’t posting it on MySpace.

    In the end, I do feel that it will be a fad, just like N*SYNC. It may take a few years for people to get bored, but eventually they will move on to better places.

  16. I just got set up on MySpace a couple of weeks ago, and so far, I only have 3 friends. I think it is my age. I’m 48, and none of my friends who I contacted have a MySpace and I don’t think any of them came to check out mine. If they did, they didn’t leave me a message, or couldn’t figure out how to do it. Like you said…if you’re over 30…well, that’s how it is. It was fun to set it up, and the friend who got me started is 28 and the other two friends I got were from his friends list and also attend my church, and they are both like 19 and 20. So, communicating with me would be like talking with Dad or something. My biggest problem with it is the sexy pictures of women that get flashed before my eyes every time I log on. I wish there was a way to bypass all that junk. I’m sure that is what keeps it free.

  17. I would love to learn more about the benefits of this site and myspace, however I have limited email use. I am working on getting a Q so I can enhance my internet use via cell phone. My email on myspace is I use my email for this account only for ministry purposes. Thanks and God bless you all.

  18. Like anything, Myspace can be used for evil or for good. Here is a post on my Myspace site;

    If you have an extra hour a week, we would enjoy having you in our E-Jesus group. Don’t think you must be an ordained pastor to share your testimony, your faith with the world.Just send brother Lee, our moderator, an email stating that you would enjoy working with the group and what country you would like to visit. You don’t have to beat anyone about the head with a Bible, as it is better to attract the way, rather than to promote the life.If the individual likes what you have, they will seek the truth in you.

  19. A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] For the last month Christian Web Trends has been talking about MySpace.  What is it?  Is it safe?  How can it be used for ministry?  But we left the best for last.  There’s one area use for MySpace that stands out in the crowd.  There’s one group of people who can benefit from using MySpace far beyond any other.  Can you guess who it is? [...]