Does MySpace Devalue Interpersonal Relations?

I have heard complaints more than once that MySpace is responsible for or perhaps representative of the breakdown of some unspoken, though apparently essential, element of communication. Despite these often impassioned renunciations of this new internet based communications tool, the number of members grows daily and more and more people are setting aside their reservations in the quest to discover just what it is that makes MySpace so irresistible.

What many people do not realize or fail to consider is that the internet itself was created as a communications tool. Although it was originally meant to serve the purpose of research and education, the internet quickly and inevitably expanded to include personal and commercial use. MySpace, unlike any website before, has managed to create a free arena in which people are able to promote both personal and commercial expansion. In this sense MySpace is the fusion of personal and commercial elements of internet communications. Despite criticism to the contrary, most individual MySpace members know and interact with a number of their MySpace friends outside of the MySpace community and in person. In this case MySpace simply serves as an alternative form of communication in which images, videos, and brief comments supplement an already active relationship. However, it is obvious with a brief glance at most MySpace profiles that people are collecting a great deal more friends than it is humanly possible for them to maintain any working relationship with.

This is where a great deal of MySpace criticism originates: MySpace promotes superficial communication in which the MySpace interface itself allows individuals to represent themselves in a way that is both false and uninhibited by the restrictions of face-to-face communication. Such criticism is the result of insufficient understanding of precisely what it is that the MySpace community is and the varied levels of communication that it provides. MySpace is not simply a site for connecting friends, it is a place for networking and personal promotion or marketing. Marketing involves commercialism and commercialism is superficial. When we see photos, interviews, or stories about celebrities like Brittany Spears or Angelina Jolie, we do not see accurate representations of these individuals. We do not see what they look like first thing in he morning with no makeup on. As a matter of fact everything about their person is completely manufactured, from the roles they play for a public that craves drama to the alteration of every photo in which they are featured to either augment or diminish (depending on the magazine) their beauty and public image. Image being the operative word here. As a networking tool MySpace provides the possibility for individuals to achieve a level of personal promotion close to that of a Hollywood celebrity.

It is this commercial aspect of MySpace that has everyone up in arms and drives people to claim that MySpace will fade away like so many fads before it. Such an assumption is na�¯ve. A website that provides the potential for multimedia personal promotion within a community of upwards of 95 million members and growing may turn out to be the future of individual marketing especially in terms of the entertainment business. Already thousands of bands are a part of the MySpace community. MySpace can be used as a personal website that is free of charge and equipped with the capability to handle all forms of media. Musicians, filmmakers, actors, writers, and artists of all types are discovering the value of MySpace as a promotional tool and a unique one in that it is entirely personally operated. One can present themselves on MySpace however they desire. Depending on the targeted market, artists can create a very real or an extremely superficial (to the level of Angelina Jolie as mentioned above) representation of themselves. As in all other endeavors some people will fail in discovering their niche within the community and others will succeed. Either way the potential that MySpace provides is something that cannot and will not be ignored and certainly will not fade away anytime in the near future.

What kind of communications tool MySpace is depends solely on the individual. A great deal of site members focus on strictly personal relationships, while others combine personal and promotional elements, and still others create purely promotional profiles. MySpace is not the beginning of some cataclysmic deterioration in interpersonal communications, on the contrary, it is the beginning of a revolution in networking and personal promotion. Individuals will continue, as they always have, to maintain meaningful and dedicated relationships based upon face-to-face interaction. What they find on MySpace is a marriage of personal and commercial communication. For those who condemn MySpace as yet another example of why the world is headed for destruction: every fading generation heralds the deterioration of society upon being faced with inevitable changes incited by the next, and yet such prophecies fade along with those generations and the world moves forward as it has since time immemorial.

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