By Ricky Armellino
You know, one thing that bothers me about being an American 20-something is the sheer effort “web 2.0” companies put into getting me jazzed on some new social website that my life would have better off without even hearing of the thing in the first place. No exaggeration, I am hopeful to get a menial number of days in my foreseeable time on this earth without social media eating my time or seeking new and exciting ways to reinforce their brand to me. For instance, I’ve been recording bands out of my house. It’s not what I planned on doing, it’s just what I do at the moment for 9 to 12 hours out of my day so I can try to convince God that I can make myself busy. Regardless of whatever principles I started the whole studio on, recording sessions inevitably involve conversations about things.
“Dude, Timberlake is rolling out demos of the new Myspace… You’ve got to see the new Myspace. They’re bringing Myspace back. Seriously man, Myspace is going to replace Facebook, man.”
The clever assholes at Myspace have even found a way to sprinkle adwords throughout the small talk I was being subjected to at work. Not only that, but gmail has been dinging every fucking hour to let me know I should “Check out cLuStErLuCk’s new profile in Myspace!”.
There’s something to be said about my memories with the old Myspace. About a year or two after I had to make a xanga so I could comment on my friends comments about Conor Oberst, long after I had written my first easyjournal blog, somewhere in the middle of a dying era where people still typed in full web address to go directly to what they wanted to see rather than browsing the sponsored content their dumb ass friends post on timelines, myspace.com/rickyarmellino was the very center of Western culture and, as far as I can tell, the world wide web as we knew it in 2003. Page comments, picture comments, and blog comments rolled in regularly on the digital tribunal I created for myself while constant private messages poured in behind the scenes. As the solitary web team upgraded to a SideKick 3 mobile interface to stay on top of heavy demand for idiosyncratic, personalized responses, revenue came in the form of… well, revenue wasn’t exactly part of the business model. I was “important” and that’s all that mattered in my skewed, self-obsessed teenage world and I finally got the bourgeois social life I missed out on for the majority of my high school career. More than any other social network, Myspace rewarded my gentle ego for all of the things I lacked as a human being and I miss it more than anything. I miss being able to keep my band on DIY tours by searching for shows via zip code before bothering every band on the existing bill to get us in with whomever promoted the event. I miss my top 8. I want so badly to be constrained to a limited number of photographs once again, no more of this “getting tagged in some Hungarian kid’s photos of himself” nonsense I deal with on Facebook. I miss the simple white and blue color scheme and the illiterate “cam bek to ohio plalalaazz” comments I browsed through. Myspace locked me into this shit for life.
Every now and then, I picture an imaginary utopia where I had never even made that first easyjournal profile, where I never spent years continuously nurturing this internal narcissist. I imagine waking up without 7 emails in my inbox and a variety of texts to compulsively respond to. I fantasize about forgetting my phone on the windowsill without consequence as I walk my dog along a stony shore, splashing coffee out of my mug as he tugs the leash around. In my dream, I have no concept of pointless US partisan political arguments because I have no “time line” spitting my friends and fans inane opinions at me. I have no uncontrollable urge to buy some new garbage from a website that 7 of my friends happened to “like”. I don’t get bothered to check out anyone’s stupid new lyric video.
I mean, yeah, there were times where I wondered if I needed it. I’d question myself, “Alright, Ricky, just what is our end game, here?” I mean, at first it was truly for the 16 year old fuck of it but over the years the sophist in me came to my internal narcissists aid and helped lay some meaning to my behavior: I established the ludicrous principle that my career in music somehow depended heavily on my presence in various social media websites. The behavior continues unchecked. Ultimately, I’m a musician with a self-importance delusion that I’ve learned to thinly veil in that shitty, cavalier method of acting as if everything I do is insignificant to the world while the greater chunk of my behavior suggest the total opposite. All the while, I regularly sit at my laptop and junky-cycle through 4 websites over and over while acknowledging there’s no new content to look at, so the damage is done. There’s no turning back for me. So without further ado, let’s check out some of the features on this new Myspace!
I failed to log in 6 or 7 times because I forgot to omit the “@gmail.com” from my username, a minor hiccup. First thing I noticed upon signing in was a bouncing bubble of text:
“MYSPACE TIP: Discover
Check out new people, the latest music and content made for you.”
“Yeah, shut the fuck up, Myspace” I thought. I figured I’d get right into my profile but at first I felt completely disoriented. The website itself scrolls from left and right haphazardly, showing off promo photographs of random successful people as overwhelmingly blurts snippets of advice for your Myspace experience. Not sure if I was ready for left to right scrolling, my eyes searched desperately for something to cling to. Once you get the hang of it, it simply makes sense to check out a few of the profile to see what people actually use this thing for.
The website insists that the pictures on the front page are “tastemakers you should know”. Take note, you no-class, heavy music loving fuck-wads: The new Myspace showcases individuals who look like they get to go to parties that aren’t weighed down by lots of economically depressed people so get your shit together. While a Walmart-ass Olympic logo on advertised to me that I could click it to connect to “things I like”, I decided it better to get my profile looking industry standard first, so I checked out Pharrell William’s personal page for ideas. He listens to Steely Dan? Get the fuck out! There was even a picture of him and Justin Timberlake! Maybe I could a playlist of early 90s hip hop jams labeled “smooth shit to cook to” and share it with him!
First thing I noticed while dusting off the cobwebs on my old profile: It still had an old profile picture of me smirking at a fisheye lens in Astoria, on tour with my band, searching for the house they filmed The Goonies at. I clicked the photo only to get sent to some new interface, letting me know I had “no connections for this entity”. What? Trying to upload a photo that isn’t 4 years old, with nothing on my freshly cleaned desktop, I traversed over to Facebook where I got derailed for 10 minutes when I clicked a link to a Russian tabloid claiming that a cemetery of extraterrestrials had been found. Once I got the ship back on course, Myspace then wanted me to choose a “cover” to slap against my background; since I was already thinking about Russia I located a desktop background of a good ol’ hammer and a sickle I had sitting around. Take that, NSA. The bottom of the page looks like you just hit the home button twice on your iPhone, featuring a control panel so you can control the pause and play of Myspace song playlists you make. I guess they didn’t get the memo that we have iTunes and Spotify on nearly every god damn electronic device we own. On the right side of your page, you can add in your details with a single click and on the left side a button that says “Mixes” sends you to a page stating:
“This mix is a collection of every song and image that has been added to this profile”
From what I’ve gathered in the half an hour I was putting off lunch to play around on this website, the new Myspace is a place where those who look like American Apparel models are encouraged to reward other hot, successful people for their cool tastes in music and photography.
I mostly remained indifferent to the whole process until I clicked on “connections”: I was greeted by dozens of faces from my past, from friend’s exes and college pals to “leaping fuck lizards, that guy still exists?!” As I browsed from left to right I began to reclaim a batch of early 2000s memories that must have not fallen victim to the posttraumatic stress from Y2K the way I thought they had. Were all of these people are already back on Myspace? Well, not exactly. Myspace keeps all those old profiles and stores your glory days away in a strange 2.0 eulogy in hopes those people actually move back into their pages. It took me a few minutes to realize that none of these individuals touched the new Myspace and the only reason I still recognized them was their photos came from a time I still spoke to them in the first place. During my quick tour through self-absorbed memory land, as I wondered “Did I waste as much time as I think I did on this thing?” and I felt guilt for even feeling nostalgia over something so spiritually negligible, I stumbled across a particular photograph of a deceased friend. There he was: A few years before the overdose, stuck there in time, still partying with all of the friends I rarely get to see anymore, still yelling at the top of his lungs, still catalogued in my Myspace friends. You see, back when we sat on that thing, a lot of us felt like we each shared actual relationships with one another. Now that I hardly ever find time to go hang out with my friends and they’ve moved onto merely taking pictures of their fiancés cooking on Instagram, I’ve realized that leaving a couple words on pictures they put on the internet was never a good way to maintain healthy relationships in the first place. Real friendships take constant effort and these websites give us a bag full of temporary shortbread friendships while keeping us too busy to make real ones.
Ultimately, I asked myself if I really needed another website in my life that I would inevitably struggle to overcome in the end.
Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope that I can actually wean myself off of these social media networks and go chase that utopia I imagined. Arabic Twitter revolutions aside, these websites are just a way to encourage all of us to collectively shut the fuck up through parroting one another’s pointless opinions and commending each other for exhibiting every symptom of Histrionic Personality Disorder. Some messages lose all meaning in being shortened to fit our attention spans and social media made our relationships concise and catchy, like shitty pop music where a one-line sound bite is all you need to make it feel meaningful. Maybe I should find a place where I can get my head cleared of all of the memes, arguments, viral bullshit and trending topics. Come to think of it, I should check in at my Linked-in profile to see if anyone has endorsed any of my skills. Hanging out on a website where people pretend they’re successful enough to make healthy decisions for themselves is the first step to actually making one myself, right?