Idol Chatter

The other day, a good friend of mine was creating herself a MySpace account as we were talking on the phone. She was joining the MySpace bandwagon, she said, in order to talk to only one person–a guy friend who tends not to return her calls. “I’m through with the phone thing,” she said. “It’s just so hard!”

Despite my protests, by the end of our conversation she had joined the millions who spend countless hours tinkering on this increasingly-popular social networking site. Coincidentally, my friend’s interest came the same day that an article appeared in USA Today examining both sides of an important issue faced by MySpace (and other comparable sites): Is all of this no-pressure, no-commitment, so-called “socializing” inhibiting vital communication skills in young adults (not to mention not-so-young adults)?

I am opposed to MySpace and other such online forums as ways of communicating in any significant way or meeting new people. My rant stems from a real-life experience that makes me skeptical of most forms of non-verbal communication (though, I’ll admit, I’m a text message-aholic, though I don’t reserve that mode of communication for important matters).

A person I had known for several years and had considered to be a friend was on my MySpace friends list. (For those of you unfamiliar with MySpace, individuals can create profiles of themselves along with pictures, and users are able to search for people and add them to their group of friends). Another friend of mine was messing around with my account one day and deleted several people, probably out of spite or boredom. One of the individuals she deleted was the first friend I mentioned. He took offense that he had been deleted from my friends list and did not speak to me for four months. Eventually we began talking again, though it was against my better judgment–really, who needs a friend who is offended so easily by something so inane and immature?

My friend is intelligent (graduate student at a film school) and successful (getting his first graphic novel published this fall), among other commendable attributes. Had he simply called me and asked why he had been deleted from my MySpace friends list, our four-month hiatus could have been avoided. But the real point of my tale is this: My 25-year-old, highly-educated friend put a lot of meaning into MySpace, and unfortunately, millions of more impressionable, younger individuals are doing the same.

And why? As the USA Today article pointed out, the quantity of online friends that a person has is akin to a social status among certain age groups, regardless if you personally know each individual on your list. So the sheer number of pictures posted on the screen boosts a person’s self-esteem, and at the same time, the same person’s feelings of self worth plummet when someone doesn’t message them back, doesn’t comment on their profile, or, God forbid, deletes them as a “friend.” It’s an avoidable, ridiculous source of anxiety for too many who ignorantly give it any meaning or importance.

This world of communication by typing is getting out of hand. People place too much emphasis on the meaning behind text messages, e-mails, and the number of times their profile and picture are viewed. As a recovering MySpace addict (you know, you’re never really cured), my advice would be to take your hand off the mouse and either pick up the phone or go to a bar, museum or park, and meet people face to face. Sure, it can be hard, as my friend says, but it’s the natural, healthy thing to do.

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