The moment I realized MySpace had taken over the world was when I discovered the official United States Marine Corps page. Although the military had long advertised on the site, it is now using a flashy MySpace page, complete with streaming video of boot camp and war, to recruit young people.
I knew the social networking site attracted more than just teenyboppers, musicians, pedophiles and hyper-expressive professionals. Politicians, athletes and nationally known comedians have all found a niche on the site, too. But I had no idea that the U.S. military had decided to acknowledge MySpace's importance as a strategic resource. Combine that acknowledgement with the reality that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the same entity controlling the Fox News Channel, owns MySpace and suddenly my paranoia about the site doesn't seem so irrational.
And that's only part of why I hate MySpace.
It's hard to go a day without hearing something about MySpace. Whether it's a news article on some teenage girl running off with an older man she met there or a new acquaintance asking me to join his or her "friends list," it is impossible to ignore its pervasiveness. With more than 95 million users — and growing by about 500,000 new users a week — MySpace is more than just a fad for the digitally inclined. It seems everyone has a page (even Burger King). If you don't, the site likely has already claimed someone in your family, probably the youngest member.
In the last year, MySpace has seen its stature grow. Music buffs around the country are praising the site's ability to attract fans to previously unheard-of bands. Athletes and politicians are joining to enhance their networking. The only site as ubiquitous is search engine Google, but even that is losing ground: In July, MySpace became the No. 1 website in the United States, overtaking Google and Yahoo in number of visitors.
Everyone seems to love MySpace.
Except for me.
I hate MySpace. And up until last week, when it was decided I would join the site for this story, I had narrowly managed to avoid its clutches.
Don't get me wrong. I don't agree with alarmist legislators or district attorneys from Texas trying to clamp down on access to MySpace, so frightened by any organization that can bring together millions of angst-ridden teenagers to let loose their lives on the world. I think the idea of pissing off older authority figures is great. The impetus that pushes teenagers to create heady pain-filled MySpace pages is the same one that made my friends create sub-par death metal tapes, fanzines and offensive homemade T-shirts.
And I'm no technophobe, either. I love the idea of having your own website to share your rose- or shit-colored view on the world with throngs of strangers.
But MySpace is a little more insidious than just "a place for friends." The most frightening aspect isn't the cyber-crazies or attack of the multi-colored and badly designed websites; it is the way the site is easing its sinister tentacle-like circuits into everything from music, sports and politics to how we interact in the public sphere. MySpace has become more than a tool to create sketchy relationships; it is a weapon used to destroy reputations, a political tactic to persuade voters, yet another marketing ploy to take our innermost thoughts and turn them into slick advertising materials.
The most chilling aspect of MySpace is its omnipresence. You can no longer ignore the site lest you be ignored by it, and by default, the rest of the connected world. MySpace is like the Star Trek series villains the Borg — it will not be satisfied until it has assimilated every last one of us. One by one, my friends have fallen into the digital black hole, forced to suck up valuable time better spent in front of the TV or loitering outside gas stations. Once caught, there is no other form of contact with these people without joining the cult yourself.
All of this, of course, has gotten progressively worse. Just in the time it will take to read this article, about 4,500 users will have joined. MySpace is not steadily growing; it is charging ahead exponentially.
MySpace's nefarious intent can be summed up in one outdated name — Rupert. Last year, MySpace sold to News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-owned outfit that includes the Fox News Channel, for $580 million. An influential website that reaches into millions of lives is one thing; the same site owned by the king of right-wing sleazy journalism sets up the Armageddon.
So, in a daunting display of selflessness, I decided to embed myself inside the army of MySpacers in an effort to infiltrate this modern-day Borg ship. It would be terrifying, and I risked being swallowed whole by all the comments, instant messaging and friends list, possibly losing any semblance of real human interaction, but I was willing to take the chance.