Enter MySpace: you can go by any handle you like whether it’s Melissa Cheater or GUINEAPIGSRKEWL. You can hack your profile in just about every way, from hiding ads to redecorating in hot pink Curlz font. You can be friends with bands – they even seek you out! And you can express yourself really any way you like because, if it’s what you want, you can participate without any actual connection to your real world life.
Enter Facebook: only students need apply. Accounts are only given to those who can provide an approved campus email address and you durn well better enter your real first and last name. Students add just about everything to their profiles from their dorm addresses to cell phone numbers. They fill out detailed profiles that ask them to detail themselves down to sexual orientation and favourite TV shows. But, everything has to be true or else all the other students in your campus network will call you on it and you certainly aren’t anonymous in any way shape or form.
In my opinion, it is this emphasis on mirroring the offline world that has helped Facebook become as mainstream as it has. Not everyone is interested in creating the perfect profile colour scheme and writing dear diary blogs each night. Facebook lets you create a detailed personal profile on the web that connects you to people that you already know and helps you manage these connections over distance and time – it’s a tool. It just seems less “webby” and a little more legitimate than the MySpace world of nick names and its rainbow of colours.
Enter Twitter: Nick names are back! There is emphasis on entering your full name in the registration form, and consequently having it display on your profile page beside your picture, but really, who you really are is the unique @username that you choose for yourself. Pictures are tiny, even if you use a pro headshot it’s probably still going to look like a hedgehog so you might as well just use a hedgehog or any other image that you think matches your 24/7 updates.
And the bands are back! And they’ve brought Hollywood with them! You and everyone else on Twitter is privvy to Ashton Kutcher’s tiniest thoughts! Users add friends and family if they like, but there is a large movement towards making connections based on the content of a person’s “tweets” or their industry or interests – no real world connection required! If I get an add from a stranger in the latest country to move into Facebook, I hit ignore – and I’m frustrated that they are new and don’t know the rules. On Twitter, I follow the world and the world follows me – and that’s the point. Whoever has the most followers wins!
So I have been excited watching the departure from reality and connecting with minds that aren’t right across the hallway. But logging into MySpace today (because Last.FM is only for those who pay for it now), I got the above prompt to enter my real first and last name. Embrace yourself, MySpace! You are not Facebook! You are a community of creativity, exploration, arts and music and videos! Facebook had to be different from you to find its role, and you need to bring something new to the table rather than playing copy cat and losing what made you great in the first place!