A column about MySpace

I’ve always thought of myself as an internet guru. I was using it back in the old days, before there were even pictures of Paris Hilton on it. But now, before I’ve even hit thirty, the internet is making me feel old and out of touch.

This is thanks to a site that recently hit the worldwide top 10, alongside such giants as Google and eBay – MySpace.com. It has millions of members worldwide and astonishingly, it was recently purchased by the publisher of this newspaper, News Corporation, for $580 million. It’s a site that lets you put up your own page, and talk with all your friends online.

Hoary 29-year-old dinosaurs such as myself used to meet people in bars or at parties. Not any more. These days, it seems, young folk meet one another exclusively through MySpace. The site allows you to leave comments on another person’s page, and my friend’s 19-year-old sister has a whopping 180 contacts on hers. They seem to spend every waking moment talking about what they’re doing on the weekend – other than a brief diversion to talk about how gross it was that her flatmate made out with someone on her couch. Even just reading about it is absolutely exhausting.

And reading about it isn’t necessarily easy, because the site’s members seem totally incapable of using standard English. One friend of this girl, for instance, commented “NAH BUT SERIOUSLY ULEH… OMG ULEH”. If you can understand that, you’re either under 21 or have a PhD in teenager linguistics. And there are 450-odd incomprehensible comments like this on this girl’s site alone.

The internet was supposed to be for nerds who never saw sunlight, but not any more. There is a new generation of internet-literate teenagers who clearly go out more in the average week than I do all year, and use MySpace so they can save on SMSing each other when they’re in front of their computers.

But perhaps the strangest thing about MySpace is that it’s also full of celebrities. One of its biggest advocates is Mr Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, who maintains his own page – which must be the ugliest thing on the entire internet – to showcase his lacklustre rapping skills. Travel to www.myspace.com/kevinfederlineforreal and you can hear his “exclusive kfederalfreestyle” rap track, in which he disses all the “haters”, finishing up by saying “f*** the media”. It’s absolutely hilarious.

And Federline certainly has a lot of haters – the site is perfectly designed to allow ordinary punters to insult celebrities to their face. Among the comments when I visited his site recently were “K-Fed Actully (sic) makes David Hasselhoff look good” and “Oh my God, it’s like you two come from a special retard planet.” Charming. Never before have so many insults been directed to so many celebrities. No wonder the kids are addicted to it.

If MySpace is the future of the web – and Rupert Murdoch clearly thinks it is – then there is going to be a bigger barrier than ever between the old and the young. And I’m clearly on the wrong side of it.

Still, I can embrace change. So I’m putting up a MySpace site to invite people over to my place on Saturday night to watch a little TV, and perhaps even drink a cup of tea. I just hope the kids are nicer to me than Kevin Federline.

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