(Wired) Briefly, on November 13th, 2005, I was a friend of Tom. I’m talking, of course, about Tom Anderson — male, 30-years old, based in Santa Monica, California, and founder of MySpace. The man with $580 million and nearly 50 million “friends.” The iMomus MySpace page was online for just 48 minutes. Barely long enough to tell the world my relationship status, sexual orientation, body type, ethnicity, religion, zodiac sign, smoking and drinking habits, income and company affiliations.
Mystech: So if I you sign up for MySpace just to protect your name/handle. Is that a “My Choice” issue?
To receive a message telling me to “read the FAQ and give Tom a break.” To upload the most flattering photo I could find. To notice that Tom had been added automatically as my first friend, and that Tom’s favorite music included Billy Joel, Oasis, Guns & Roses and Whitney Houston (“particularly The Bodyguard soundtrack”).
I don’t know what made me delete it. It just looked ugly: the page layout, the blue writing. I felt like a sheep, letting social pressures, memes and fads herd me around. I wondered why I needed yet another social networking website to check: After all, I was already on Friendster and Japanese network Mixi, not to mention LiveJournal, a network organized around daily content rather than mere profiles and links. Mostly, I just wondered why I needed to affirm tenuous affiliation with a new set of ghosts.
I didn’t know at that point that just four months earlier, on July 19th, MySpace had been bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. That’s where Tom’s $580 million came from. I think if I’d known that, the MySpace iMomus page wouldn’t even have lasted 48 minutes. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, isn’t my favorite guy.
I do have something in common with him, though. We both have spoof MySpace pages impersonating us. The Spoof Murdoch page says “I aspire to become the most powerful man in the world…. There are many important benefits to fascism.”
The Spoof Momus page automatically loads a song I deleted from one of my albums, a song I’ve signed legal agreements never to play again.
The real Rupert Murdoch has presumably left his fake pages up to show that he supports freedom of speech. I’ve left mine up because I can’t really do much about it.
But it is pretty annoying seeing all those people thanking “me” for adding them, or telling “me” how much they love my music, unaware that they’re talking to someone merely pretending to be me. I can’t even leave a message on the page telling people it’s not mine; I’d have to join MySpace to tell MySpace users I’m not on MySpace. So the page stays, with a banner advertising Napster, a bad photo of me in a lilac shirt snapped at some ancient concert,and the lie that I’m based in Metropolitan France.
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with an old friend of mine, an early pioneer of multimedia who used to be a kind of digital exhibitionist. He once put online a highly provocative autobiography. After falling victim to identity theft, he’s had a change of heart.
“The thing to be now is untraceable,” he told me. “Wipe every reference to yourself off the internet. Make yourself ungoogleable. Why tell criminals, corporations or the government all that stuff about yourself? Why do the spies’ job for them?”
A bit later, I heard about someone who’d committed “Friendstercide.” He’d killed his Friendster page, announcing that from then on he’d only be contactable by phone and e-mail. So I guess you’d call what I did last November “committing MySpacecide.”
It sounds radically self-destructive, but the opposite situation would be much worse. Imagine dying for real, dying physically, but lingering on as a digital ghost, a presence on a MySpace page collecting obituaries and tributes. It’s already happened to quite a few MySpace users. A website called MyDeathSpace, for instance, collects dead MySpace users’ pages. It has over a hundred, and adds more each day.
There are gaps in the MyDeathSpace collection. Indie rocker Nikki Sudden hasn’t yet shown up there, despite dying recently after playing a show at New York’s Knitting Factory. (His MySpace page lingers on, attracting digital tributes in the form of embedded YouTube video clips.)
But the Seattle rave kids who died in the Capitol Hill massacre are there. Pressed like dried flowers at MyDeathSpace, their MySpace pages collect a series of incongruously casual “high fives” and “peace outs.” See you on the other side of the internet, dude!
The sad fact is that more and more of us, as we invest ourselves in the web, entrusting intimate personal information to garish pages, are destined to leave hastily-constructed, poorly-designed memorials online when we die, trivial shrines whose guest books and comments sections will continue to grow even as we rot, puffing up slowly with hackneyed, repetitive, ghoulish, unintentionally funny tributes.
Eventually, of course, these pages, too, will follow us into oblivion. Tribute activity will level off, some administrator or relative will delete us, the networking brand itself will fall out of favor, its elderly owner will also die, and even his satirists will stop maintaining their spoof page about him. Out of fashion, replaced by new technologies as yet unimagined on infrastructure as yet unbuilt, the network will change hands a few times and close.
Then, thank God, that wretched novelty song we threw up in a whimsical moment will stop loading. Then, finally, our digital ghosts will find peace, and escape the great cycle of humiliation.
There’s a short cut to the same nirvana, though: You could make today the day you commit MySpacecide.