ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday January 13, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 33

Beyond the boundaries of social networking

By Tharangani Perera

Once upon a time in the Information Age, was created a wonderful realm of possibilities, in which you could be anything from Captain Hook to Thumbelina. Your best friend could be Chazz Micheal Micheals and his side kick– the Big Bad Wolf. And you could live in Communist Never Never Land, funded by Germany, home to Brothers Grimm.

They brought you the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who quenched a burning desire for vengeance by leading the village children away with magical music. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg brought you a fairyland with an identity crisis, which allowed you to quench a burning desire for revenge by pelting your old enemies with various body parts plucked from a zombie.

Did you have to stop there? No! You could kiss your mom who lived all the way in New York; bite a friend and turn him into a vampire. In the middle of the night, you could throw a ghost at your neighbour!

Introducing Facebook, the World Wide Web's greatest wonder since Virtually Sliced Bread brought to you by those who dared to venture beyond the Great Beanstalk of social networking. It's 3 o' clock in the morning. Where are you? If you are over 13 years of age, own regular access to a computer and the internet and enjoy more than three hours of leisure time each day, it's very likely that you're on Facebook. I for one don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Go on admit it; neither do you.

Profile: This is how I will be presented to the entire world for the rest of my life. Since you don't know me – yes, I am the former Princess of Egypt, exiled by my people for marrying a bus driver and currently living a life of sorrow and incredible passion…. Also, here you can post that "see-how-drunk-yet-incredibly-composed-and-earth-shatteringly-lovely-in a-careless-way profile picture." And if you post a normal picture, where your hair's carefully parted in the middle, your hands lie neatly in your lap and your lips aren't pouting, take it off! That's completely against Facebook etiquette. In fact, everyone's laughing at you!

On your profile are the following: the Wall, Messaging, Events, Pokes, and Photos. Have you updated your status today? I decided that I am: "The limit of x as it approaches perfection," while one of my friends "is on furlough, hiatus, sabbatical, break. I think my cousin declared that he "is frustrated by the anarcho-syndicalist peasants." My sister "is an enigma, wrapped in a brainteaser, nestled in a sesame seed bun of vagueness."

Top Friends:

"Save time and show your friends some love" they say, introducing one of the most popular features on Facebook, the "Top Friends." As they're only a click away, you don't have to search every time you want to know if your best friend was out last night with the cute German exchange student.

Allowing just a smidgen of narcissism and a dash of cliquishness to enter our perfect world of harmony and love, Facebook has created here, a modernized tenth grade cafeteria. Of course, if I add you, you're in. If not, you're outer than a mechanical engineering major wearing a shirt that declares "Worth the Effort" over acres of beer belly.

Life brings you charity clubs, chess clubs and trade unions. Facebook harbours "I love Sri Lanka; I loathe its self-proclaimed film star," "Students Against Backpacks with Wheels" and ""My Significant Other Is My Hand." These groups feed the voracious egotism of its members. In the same way that having 20 friends who're willing to make you chocolate chip cookies at the snap of your fingers makes you feel warm and tingly inside, being a part of or creating a group makes you feel on top of the world.

Besides, there are no dues to pay, no minutes-of-last-meeting to recall and no protest marches to organize. In a guild where the president is "Self Declared Head Honcho and Ultimate Tyrant" and the secretary is "Spontaneous Crash Lander," what is more fulfilling than being promoted to the esteemed rank of "Soul Cake Duck"?

Are you smirking and pondering the sexual undertones of this sophisticated flirting method? The Facebook Poke has come a long way since that time we simply crossed our fingers, pressed the "poke" button and hoped for the best. The new face of poking, "SuperPoke allows you to slap, bite, cuddle and defenestrate. Why stop there? You can "be fabulous with," "throw a sheep at," "use the force on" and "trout slap" anyone.

And if you want to take sexy back from someone, you no longer need five-inch stilettos or a suction pump. All you need is SuperPoke! When does one know that madness has gone too far? I say as soon as you add Yoda to your Top Friends and join a group founded upon the ambition to experiment with the dandruff on Mr. Terry Pratchett's head in sheer hope of discovering the secret behind his genius. Until then, Facebook away!

MySpace was launched in 2003 as a refuge for LA 20 something's with a common interest in Indie music. Today, the site is dominated by American teens who use over 50 million accounts. Also, MySpace is a hearty home to its signature bullies and predators, much like a tenth-grade cafeteria.

What is MySpace? If Facebook is fairyland, MySpace is the ghetto. MySpace is an advice column with potential to compel Britney Spears fans to try baldness, Paris Hilton devotees to DUI and Marilyn Manson aficionados to kill men who don't dress in women's clothes. The freeVerse dictionary defines MySpace as a common room for preps, perves, pansies and princesses.

Profiles: The product core is formed by user profiles connected by links to friends on the system. And I'm the girl on the corner of 7th and Bleaker who screams obscenities at you if your clothes aren't torn. On their profile pictures, men generally tend to cross their arms over their chest and look menacing while sultry women pose in a fashion made popular by models seen on adult magazines. If people can't be bothered to pose, they simply raise their hand and make an obscene gesture. Profiles are personalized to express your interests and tastes, thoughts of the day and values. Many choose to adorn their profile with Music, photos and videos.

Of course, research is always fun. This is an excerpt from a profile: Your Best Physical Feature: The fact that I Look Like a freaking Turtle! You're Bedtime: Nevvvvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrr! Pepsi or Coke: I don't drink My Own urine Anymore MacDonald's or Burger King: I don't eat the crusty boogers From Under My Desk Anymore Blurbs, Blogs and Other Things: Feeding limited attention spans and curious cravings to accomplish minimal tasks divorced from reality, MySpace's blogosphere is a vision of true consumer-targeted agony. Another satisfying feat accomplished by MySpace is the creation of an excellent channel for parental angst. Perhaps the Catholic Organization for Life and Family has finally found something real to battle in the little "Kill the Mom" campaigns.

Music: MySpace is very big on music. In fact, there are music artists on MySpace who allow their fans to befriend them. Home to 1.4 million bands, which are hosted for free, MySpace is a revered resource for musicians.

Groups: No humour here. Maybe the humour was stolen by the sexual predators that roamed the streets, by nights. The groups on MySpace are very straightforward and clean-cut. Except they are not as clean cut as they try to be. While Facebook brought you, "Bums are people too," MySpace shelters groups such as "Cosmetology,""Drunk Dialers" and "People who Hate People Party." Incidentally, these are among the funniest groups in the system. Oh, the humanity!

So what exactly are teens doing on MySpace? Simple: they're hanging out. To see what kind of hanging out is 'in' nowadays, go to, type in "going to kill myself" and click search.

There are 147,000 results for that search. Now since this is a common mid-afternoon confession for those incredibly tired teenage mothers of three, we should not be that alarmed. However, "Hate myself" yields 167,000 results, cannibal produces 180,000 and "skin alive" brings back 15,000.

MySpace promotes a visceral language, from an unrecognized era that dates five centuries back from The Stone Age. Let me illustrate my point by presenting these cryptic profile names: "Lookin Like A Star Wytch Wen U See Me Make A Wish," and "Lika Rusti Nale and Ganstamomma." Other words of deep primeval meaning are wutup (what's up?), krazy (crazy), their (there) and many more…

The numbers speak for themselves. Social interaction and expression, use and abuse within this ghetto land are going someplace sour. In fact, according to rumours, the FBI uses MySpace as a tool to arrest sexual predators. Besides that, if the Facebook is the visual equivalent of Vatican City, MySpace is downtown L.A. If you can withstand epileptic seizures and persistent attacks from animated images created by eight-year-olds who probably blink every 10 nanoseconds, MySpace is for you.

MySpace or Facebook? You decide.

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