Category Archives: myspace

tonite on O’Reilly Factor

I just finished taping a segment for tonight’s O’Reilly Factor talking about MySpace. I am actually surprised at how calm the conversation was. Relatively controversy free. Of course, it’s still about the scary side, but i think it came out OK. O’Reilly even introduced the town square metaphor for me, helping me explain that teens are doing what they’ve always done in public spaces.

Anyhow, if anyone watches it, tell me how it came out since i won’t get a chance to see it live.


I still haven’t seen the show, but some folks took pictures and put them up on Flickr which lets me at least see what i looked like (cuz i didn’t get to see anything during filming). Apparently i’m a cultural anthropologist! I don’t quite know how i got that label, but it is indeed an ist! Anyhow, i’m really rather humored by all of this. My mother, brother, aunt and grandparents are equally humored. I managed to survive one of the most conservative and controversial TV figures unscathed. Who would’ve guessed?

Update 2: I just put a copy of my segment up on You Tube. Enjoy!

the problem with firehoses

In a bulletin on MySpace, Tom Anderson wrote a very simple message:

it’s interesting to see how people are using myspace to organize for political causes. 🙂
there was a report on NPR about it today

He pointed the flood to NPR. Two minutes later: is currently unavailable due to technical difficulties, but we are currently working to restore service.

I feel bad for the tech admins over at NPR. But i have to admit that it’s kinda funny how fast a MySpace link can destroy a big website.

MySpace, HR 4437 and youth activism

For good reason, many Americans are outraged by HR 4437, a House bill that will stiffen the penalties around illegal immigration. Over the weekend, protests began with over 500,000 people taking to the streets on Saturday. Online, teens wrote bulletin board posts on MySpace, encouraging their peers to speak out against the bill. On Monday, instigated through MySpace postings, thousands of teens across the country walked out of school and marched in protest. In Los Angeles alone, 36,000 students walked out and took to the streets. Throughout the country, thousands of teens walked out in protest.

I am in awe of what these students did. As a population, teens are silenced by society, ineligible to vote. And yet, they took to the streets to stand up for what they believe in. They used the digital public to rally each other, to spread information and encouragement even though most knew they faced disapproving schools. They stood in solidarity, speaking out for an oppressed population that resides in this country. How amazing is that?

What disappoints me the most is how school officials, law enforcement and the press handled the situation. We bitch about how young people are not politically engaged, but when they speak out for something that hegemonic society disapproves of, they are slapped down. Ah, the irony.

Public officials and school administrators spoke out against the students’ actions. Quoting these figures, the press gave the impression that administrators were concerned for the safety of their students. The discussions on MySpace painted a different picture as students discussed how schools would be docked $50 for each student who did not attend. In admonishing the students, administrators told the press that kids should return to school where they can have conversations about immigration in a “productive” way. The tone was quite condescending, arguing that a school day is more important than this political act. When LA Mayor Villaraigosa spoke to the young protesters, he said: “You’ve come today, you registered your commitment to your families, your opposition to the Sensenbrenner legislation, but it’s time to go back to school.” I am particularly bothered by Villaraigosa’s statements given his activist history and stance on immigrants.

In some towns, teens were charged with truancy for participating in the protest. Many students are faced with detentions and other punishments for their participation.

And people wonder why teens don’t engage politically…..

Of course, what is most depressing is how the press covered the story. The first coverage i heard was from NPR where they had soundbytes of youth stumbling, trying to explain why they were protesting. The coverage made them look stupid and naive and the commentator talked about how the youth were uninformed.

Now, not all of the protesting youth fully understood what they were speaking out against. Yet, most did. At the very least, they understood that something was gravely wrong about the bill. Yet, many students were quite informed. Articulate students spoke about how the bill represented a form of racist oppression that would permit racial profiling. Other spoke about the fundamental problems with the economic system, about how Mexicans are a critical labor force that is systematically oppressed. Other kids talked about how their parents came to this country to give them a chance. They crafted banners and posters, brought flags to signify the diversity of cultures that people came from, chanted about Cesar Chavez and human rights.

And still, the press talked about how the students were just looking for a day off school. Almost every story covered that aspect. There is no doubt that some students were looking for exactly that. Then again, there were plenty of adults protesting the war so that they didn’t have to go to work. Yet, the news never talked about truant adults.

By trivializing the youths’ participation, the press failed to capture the significance of this political act. How long has it been since so many students took a public stance? Has it been since Vietnam?

What is gained by belittling the students, punishing their act, and pooh-poohing their engagement with the public sphere? Sadly, this is yet-another act of ageist oppression meant to silence the youth when they stand for something that contradicts hegemonic values.


One of the things that really bothers me about how this story played out concerns the issue of race and class. I wonder how a protest would be handled if privileged white kids all took to the streets backed by their parents. By listening to these teens speak out, it is clear that anti-Mexican sentiments are running high in this country.

The issue of illegal immigrants is raw with racism and injustice. On one hand, we are a land of immigrants (who decimated the native population). On the other, we have a fucked-up attitude about who has the right to be here. And that does not include people who come to do manual labor or people who speak a language that threatens English dominance.

To complicate matters, a huge portion of the economy of the southwest and California depends on illegal immigrants. Who picks the strawberries that you eat? Who works in the meat factories? Who cleans the toilets? How often do officials look the other way during harvest only to violently deport the immigrants once they are no longer needed? I often hear people bitch about how illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans and use up our precious tax money. Of course, these people fail to recognize that most Americans refuse to do the jobs that illegal immigrants do and that this population deserves some dignity and access to resources for what they contribute to this society.

I’m quite curious what will happen to privileged society if all illegal immigrants are deported. Will there be a food shortage? How much will the cost of everything rise?

Unfortunately, i doubt that this bill will do anything to help the people who are the backbone of American manual labor. I doubt it will improve labor conditions and it certainly won’t improve race relations. This is quite unfortunate, because i definitely don’t think that the current approach to immigrants is just. Where is Cesar Chavez when you need him?


Update: NPR has a great short piece on the issue of students walking out.

It’s actually really good to hear the principal in this segment talk about her conflicted feelings – she makes it very clear that she needs to keep the students in school for the money (Fresno loses $30 a day for each absent student). What adminstrators are offering students as an alternative (write letters to your representatives) is not nearly as empowering as walking out. IMHO, the students aren’t stupid – they know that walking out of school will get the press attention and make the issue far more visible than writing letters. They also know that doing it on a school day instead of on a weekend will make it very clear that youth care and that they aren’t just there because of their parents. They were written out of the stories of Saturday’s protests (even though they were very present). By making their own, they are saying loud and clear that this isn’t acceptable to the younger generation.

the disappearance of two girls

It’s been a weird week in the world of MySpace fear and i actually had the opportunity to watch a full cycle. On February 15, Alexis Beyer and Alexandra Dimarco disappeared and their parents went to the media to find them. They were completely and utterly convinced that they were abducted because of their use of MySpace. Beyer’s mother went so far as to say, “if I’m wrong about this whole thing, I’m willing to become the laughingstock of the city.” When folks at MySpace got wind of what was going on, they contacted the police to help in any way possible. Through IP logs, they found that the girls had not logged in for many days before their disappearance. Their profiles were filled with information about how they loved each other; they marked themselves as bisexual. The police were convinced that they simply ran away, angering their mothers. The mothers were scheduled to appear on numerous national TV shows when the two girls were found. They had run away. One came back voluntarily but the other was brought back forcibly.

Nothing has been written in the media exclaiming that the teens are safe.

Nothing has been written in the media to correct the link to MySpace.



I’m curious by what i don’t know. Did the mothers truly believe that it was MySpace or did they believe that screaming foul play due to MySpace would make the media broadcast their teens’ faces? If the teens didn’t log in for a week before their disappearance, can we assume that they were blocked from accessing the site by their parents? Dimarco’s mom indicated that she kept her daughter off her blog because older men would contact her, noting that her daughter would log in whenever possible on other computers. Reading between the lines of what i know, things don’t add up.

This makes me sad on many levels. My sad suspicion is that those kids are hurting and if one of them had to be brought home forcibly, i’m guessing she’s hurting pretty badly. I’m sad because i think that the mothers are either clueless of or the cause of the hurt; i’m hoping the former, but in either case, they probably don’t have a close relationship. And i’m sad by the media and the ongoing demonization of youth public places, particularly MySpace.

Many teens are frustrated by the press’ account of their behavior, but they have no voice. They are frustrated by their parents’ fear, but they have no power. Parents are scared, and their fear is misguided. There are more actions against minors in San Francisco on a daily basis than there have ever been in the 3-year history of MySpace. More and more cases are failing to pan out. Yet, there are more kids on MySpace than in any single state. I wish i knew how to reach out to parents and say, “It’s OK… your kids will be OK… just teach them trust and love.” In statistical terms, MySpace is safer than going to school. It is safer than being in a car with your parents. It is safer than going to the mall. And yet, we are more scared because we don’t understand it and we’re afraid. This makes me so sad because this kind of fear is anxiety producing and culturally dangerous. 🙁

AAAS presentation on MySpace data

Today, i did my first proper presentation of the data i’ve been collecting on MySpace. “Identity Production in a Networked Culture” looks at how youth use MySpace for socialization, identity production, and hanging out. In particular, i investigate how and why youth are (re)creating a public in digital space. I’ve uploaded a rough crib of the 15 minute presentation that i gave there since i suspect some of you might be curious what i’ve been thinking about with respect to MySpace.

This talk was part of AAAS in a panel called “It’s 10PM: Do You Know Where Your Children Are… Online!” The panel was an unbelievable collection of quant and qual researchers thinking about these issues from all sorts of perspectives: Justine Cassell, Amanda Lenhart (PEW), Henry Jenkins and David Huffaker.

This talk went over exceptionally well (much to my surprise). Two teenagers who whispered to each other the whole way through the talk came up to me afterwards to tell me that what i said was true. A mother told me that her 15-year old son would surely thank me because she now understands that there is a positive side to the Net and she wants to start a conversation with her son about it (she had been banning access). Other parents told stories of their teens and quite a few thanked me for putting the scare issues into perspective. I have to say… it was one of the most rewarding talks i’ve given. I feel like i might have done some good in the world…

MySpace blamed for alienated youth’s threats

Another beautiful MySpace article: Online Terror Threat Hits Local High School. The “terrorists” are two boys who are threatening to show up in school with machine guns. As a result of their posts to MySpace, most students didn’t show up for school. The school district is pissed and blames MySpace for enabling students to “post their thoughts and ideas” without surveillance. They are deciding whether or not to sue MySpace.

::smacking forehead:: We didn’t learn from Columbine did we? Both of those kids also posted their threats on websites. What they were doing was a cry for help. I’d bank money that those kids are feeling alienated and disillusioned with authority. Goddess knows the number of times i had dreams about blowing up my school growing up. Why is MySpace at fault? Because they are letting kids speak their minds? Is it better that they speak their minds so far removed from adult vision that they can’t actually be supported when things go horribly wrong? Why not learn from the kids and try to support them rather than take away their tools for expression?

I was talking with a friend about this and he reminded me that these services help kids who are alienated come together and, sometimes, this means that they get validated in their alienation which exacerbates the situation. He’s right and this is a problem with some of the cutters on LiveJournal – they try to outdo each other with more severe images. But then i talked to a psychologist about the cutters and she pointed out that she’s so thankful for LJ. Now, she can see into the lives of people like her patients, better understand their psychology than anything they say in therapy and be a more effective therapist. Sure, she has to deal with the peer validation issue, which she admitted was more significant on LJ than in everyday life, but she said it’s worth it because knowing what’s going on in their heads helps her help them overcome the peer pressure bit as well as the actual damage. She told me it was far more effective this way.

In my research group, we started talking about cultural differences regarding peer groups and age-related validation. In the US, it’s expected that you will be friends with people your age, but elsewhere, it’s more common to socialize with cousins and family members of all different ages. Throughout our lives in the US, we’re chunked by age and then we’re spewed out into the adult world and it’s so weird to make friends with people that are older than us. And we think it to be weird when friends span large age gaps.

The problem with a lack of diversity around age is that you’re constantly being validated by people who are in the same stage as you, who are dealing with the same problems and don’t have much in the way of perspective. I was thinking about how Manuel Castells always talks about the solution to ending violence starts with having diverse groups of people always interact. He thinks about this mostly in terms of socio-economic class, but does this apply to age too? Would we stop more youth violence if teens weren’t so age-segregated? If the groups that provided them with validation were from different age slices?

It’s pretty horrifying that we’re talking about teens as “terrorists” now. More fear, always more fear. Of course, the more we fear teens and place restrictions on them, the more prone they will to seek agency through whatever means possible, even violence. We’re creating our own demise through oppression. (::cough:: Paris.) When will we figure out how to support people through feelings of alienation?

God, i feel like a broken record on this one, but it seems like the media is doing a damn good job acting as one too.

MySpace -> News Corp.

I’ve been waiting for a mega-media company to buy MySpace and sure enough, it happened. News Corp bought Intermix Media (the half-parent of MySpace). Unlike the other YASNS, the value of MySpace comes from the data on media trends that is the core of what people share on that service. You have millions of American youth identifying with media and expressing their cultural values on the site. Marketers who want to understand the constantly shifting youth trends are often looking for a perch from which to be the ideal voyeur. And with MySpace, they found it. Here, youth are sharing media left right and center and forgetting that they are doing so under the watchful eye of Big Media who are certain to use this to manipulate them. Because youth believe that MySpace is a social tool for them, they are not conscious of how much data they’re giving to marketers about their habits.

Really, it’s a brilliant move for News Corp. (assuming they can stay out of the courts and that the RIAA is nice to them). I’m just not so certain how good it is for youth culture.

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“Move Over Friendster…”

One of my favorite aspects about MySpace is how little attention it has gotten during the whole YASNS thing. It has in many ways grown organically, based on actual networks, usage and whatnot. It is far less of a fad than any of the other services because those who joined it weren’t doing so because of mainstream fad behavior.

So, waking up to the Mercury News exclaiming Move over, Friendster. There’s a hotter site on the Web made me ROFL. Hotter? To who? By what standard?

If you follow this space, you know that MySpace has had more traffic than Friendster for a long time. They have fewer accounts, more loyalty, more freedom and generally a much more youth-friendly culture. Their popularity is mostly amongst users who never got into the fad of Friendster: goth kids, indie rock kids and youth. In the last six months, most of the urban teens i talk to talk about MySpace. If you’re in college, you’re on Facebook but if you’re in high school, you’re probably on MySpace. The only reason to say “Move Over Friendster” is because Friendster never really recovered its hyped status in the States and while its popularity overseas continues to grow, the media here has declared it a fad.

I must say that it’s funny to see things circle back again and again in this space. Was this was the Boom was like?