So apparently Myspace is trying to reinvent itself. Again. And while its redesign is apparently quite beautiful and it’s got Justin Timberlake as a mascot, I’m going to wait to break out the champagne. To me, Myspace is a time capsule, in both a literal sense (have you guys ever gone back to look at your pages? Oh sweet mercy is that a weird experience) and a figurative one: its rise and fall encapsulated so much about the people who used it and the world we lived in. These latest whispers about Myspace coming back from the dead got me thinking about the site and all the useful (and not-so-useful) things we learned during those fleeting years we spent perfecting our “About Me” sections and fielding messages from sexual predators. For example…
1. How to take a self-portrait in the bathroom mirror. You know, when art historians look back at the turn of this century and pinpoint the defining artistic style, I guarantee you it will be the bathroom self-portrait. Indeed, the masterworks of our time will include peace signs and duckface, and we can thank Myspace for that.
2. How to write about ourselves. In addition to your main photo, maintaining a truly great “About Me” section was of utmost importance. After all, there was a good chance your crush would read it. All that time crafting and honing our mini bios totally paid off–today many of us write about ourselves, online, for a living. (In related news, do you think my crush is reading this?!)
3. How to rank our friends. Remember the “Top 8″ friends list? Remember the thrill of clicking over to a friend’s page and seeing your own beaming face among this elite group? Remember the emotional turmoil of watching yourself drop from the #1 spot to #2 after you refused to let your BFF borrow your favorite sweater? Before Myspace, we may have had a best friend or two and a few larger groups of friends we socialized with, but Myspace required us to rank our friends numerically and publicly. Talk about a paradigm shift.
4. How to brand ourselves. “Personal branding” is a really hot topic right now. You can spend thousands of dollars on seminars and books and consultants to learn how to create your own unique brand, but if you think about it, we all got a crash course in personal branding the day we registered for a Myspace page. People who visited our pages weren’t seeing us, exactly; they were seeing a version of us that we wanted them to see. Everything from the background color to the song that played in the background to the quote next to our picture was carefully curated to represent our coolest, smartest, prettiest selves. My personal brand included a neon blue background and a System Of A Down soundtrack, which is actually pretty accurate. How about yours?
5. How to overshare. Blog posts detailing how much we hated our parents. Photo albums documenting that night we ate pizza. Detailed lists of every band we’d ever kind of liked. Maybe humans are prone to oversharing, maybe it’s a symptom of our self-obsessed culture, but either way, Myspace gave us an outlet that made it seem totally normal.
6. How to properly obsess about social media. These days everyone is constantly clicking back and forth between Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and their favorite blogs, but once upon a time, we didn’t rely quite so heavily on these websites (mostly because they didn’t exist). I remember when I first started hitting the refresh button on my Myspace page, desperately hoping for new posts and messages–it was frantic and compulsive and weird, and it was also an entirely new experience. Alas, how naive I was!
7. How to move on. When Facebook started catching up to Myspace’s popularity, many of us juggled two profiles for awhile, but before long Myspace was a ghost town.We’d spent hours customizing our pages with songs and pictures and blog posts and bling, and now, with no friends to chat with and no crushes to take bathroom portraits for, it was obvious that we had to let Myspace go. Which is good, because if we hadn’t learned to cut ties back then, who knows how many of us would still be fiddling around with Google Plus?