Is it too late to change my answer to MySpace?

As social engagement shifted to the more accelerated, one-size-fits-all engagement of the Facebook model, I was part of the cultural shift away from the less scrollable content network of MySpace. In hindsight, there are a few reasons I wish I could take it back and stick with MySpace until the end.

  1. I use my Facebook account so little that I’m waffling between deleting it or making a concerted effort to log in every week so that message senders don’t feel neglected. The trade off is missing out on exposure to a sometimes overwhelming variety of events and information, but I actually feel more balanced now that I’m back to getting my information a little more slowly, organically, and with fewer click-baity headlines. So in the long run, I’ve not found lasting value from the Facebook platform itself. Others have, I know, but it was attached to a certain level of FOMO that has dissipated in my life. I’m not sure that I’d use MySpace more these days if it were still widely used, but one indicator to the positive may be that I update my blog significantly more frequently than I check my Facebook.
  2. The pervasive and invasive goals of Facebook as an organization creep me out a bit. I say this as an advocate for Open Data: Facebook is in the business of finding ethical boundaries in Data Science by crossing them. The “ask forgiveness, not permission” attitude upsets me in a Spiderman kind of way. With great social power comes great social responsibility, but the goals and methods at Facebook often exist in implicit disrespect for civic responsibilities. Running experiments on users (well beyond A/B testing) without consulting appropriate research authorities like the IRB that could have advised them on ethics…poor form, and gives legitimate fuel to public distrust of other technological or research endeavors.
  3. I feel like Facebook kills creativity, to a certain extent. In their own experiments on users, they found that they could manipulate emotions based on what news/ads they showed. Content can still be creative, but the level of user control in customation is laughable compared to MySpace. Facebook chose branding & corporate control of user experience over user design flexibility. And they won. Myspace died. LiveJournal, Tumblr, all those iterations of social networking…not really a thing anymore. I am probably missing something, but I’m frustrated with the hyper-corporate brand curation of social nowadays. It feels inorganic. Blogging is kind of an outlet for creativity-beyond-content, but the barrier to entry or to engagement is much higher than on social networks. That shared experience comes up in so many stories of how people my age got into computer science, software development, and many in-demand careers that rely on coding.

These are my rough thoughts on how MySpace and other hands-on platforms encouraged coding + creativity to intersect so naturally. Maybe MySpace would have taken the same corporate/predatory/click-baity turn as Facebook if it had won; maybe Facebook is just a case of humanity getting what it wants. A tech boom “be careful what you wish for.” I feel lucky to have grown up in the Lemmings, Oregon Trail, Mavis Beacon 2.0, AIM, MySpace slice of history and I crave a rebirth of tech for all, not just top-down obsession with market-driven user experience enhancement that hand-feeds distraction to an increasingly distracted generation.

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