Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Too Old for MySpace, Too Young to Not Care: Metroville's Vague, Half-Assed Reason for Being

Really? MySpace? We're all still doing that?

For years, I've proudly considered myself simultaneously too intellectual and too cool for MySpace, viewing it as a virtual (literally) (hey, neat--"literally virtual") wasteland for inattentive, illiterate teenagers with astonishingly poor taste in music--even relative to their own age group (people finally come around to acknowledging the reality that Creed has always blown and shall blow forever, only to raise the flag of Hinder? That godawful mess might as well be called "Sons of Creed (A Tribute to Nickelback)"!)--and no Thunderdome in place to handily sort things out ("Two illiterate teenagers enter--one illiterate teenager leave...and experience much-needed personality adjustment when confronted with sobering reality of having been forced to commit violent homicide for the entertainment of others"). Had the website come into existence just a couple of years earlier, I shamefully admit that I would have most likely maintained a MySpace page of my own to this very day (and it would have been awesome!--all with, like, awesome bands and awesome pics of me and my friends going crazy cuz me and my friends are the craziest!--HINDER RAWKS!!!), because the fact is I've always longed for a personal space on these here internets.

My first attempt to bring that dream to life (back when I was an optimist and actually maintained dreams with no sense of irony) occurred around 2001 (it might have been 2002--I drink), when I started a page on Blogspot--which some of you young'uns might not know was an early version of Blogger, the very website you're looking at right now. Small world. That page, called "Johnny Anonymous", would grow to include about two posts (one of which was an abandoned attempt by the author to humorously reimagine the individuals met during a recent stay in court-ordered rehab (remember how I mentioned that I drink? I used to do so while driving--high-five! ["high-five" not to be imagined as spoken in a fake Kazakhstani accent]) as superhuman crimefighters) and be viewed by as many as one (1) person worldwide before being abandoned.

A little over a year ago, following a several-years-long stretch as an audience-member-only (though a particularly devoted one) of the worldwide web, I threw my hat back into the ring in a big way, starting my honest-to-goodness (that's three hyphenated three-word phrases in one sentence, which must be some kind of record) very own website from the ground up. I didn't use a hosting site like Blogger this time around; I did the legwork and paid the fees required to own and maintain a standalone, independently hosted website--a website I decided to call WordKick, apparently because I like things that sound kind of gay. At the time, I thought that my quest to be a part of the internet had come to a satisfactorily conclusion with the formation of WordKick. I happily and (semi-)regularly posted to the site for months...before an unsettling realization began to seep in:

Maintaining one's own website is hard.

I'm an American--I want immediate results without effort. In light of these parameters, WordKick presented a problem. The rate of my posting decreased with each incident, as I grew increasingly bored with the requisite gruntwork of reformatting the site and frustrated by the inherent contradiction that in order to do what I wanted to do on the internet--write (a.k.a. be hilarious)--I was forced to do the last thing I wanted to do anywhere--work (a.k.a. be boring and totally non-hilarious). By January of 2006, it had become depressingly clear to me that wordkick.com was not long for this world.

Miraculously (or at least I thought it was at the time), just as I was preparing to abandon my dreams of being an online presence, I stumbled across an article in the Boston Globe about an upstart website that was specifically tailored to people who serious about writing on the internet but didn't want to bother with the technical aspects of maintaining their own platforms. The site was called "Gather", and its owners--based in my hometown area of Boston (hence the writeup in the Globe)--were purporting it to be essentially a "grownup alternative" to MySpace. The user-friendliness of MySpace without the associated mouth-breathing moron appeal? It seemed to me as though Gather was heaven-sent, so I kicked WordKick to the curb and joined up promptly.

I've been on the site for over a year now, and in that year I have experienced just enough intermittent satisfaction with it to prevent me from acknowledging a disappointing reality about Gather...that is, until right now: Gather isn't a grownup alternative to MySpace in the sense that it fosters more intelligent content; it's a grownup alternative in the sense that the stupid people who populate the site are simply older on average than the stupid people who populate MySpace. Despite the occasional shining star, Gather often seems to be nothing more than a MySpace for infirm, delusional, (and sometimes really, really crazy) middle-aged rednecks...with less features. As fortuitous as I thought it was that the aforementioned Boston Globe article reached me in Los Angeles, I had failed to consider the possibility that news of Gather might also reach Deliverance country, both literally and figuratively...and boy, did it ever.

As my dissatisfaction with Gather has grown, I've been disturbed to notice that not only has MySpace's popularity not begun to wane, as I had once predicted it would, its ever-growing web has actually started to ensnare people that I respect. When the invitation went out for my high school reunion last spring, it included a link to an organizational MySpace page where potential attendees could keep track of the event's planning stages as well as browse the individual "MySpaces" of former classmates...and this latter feature led me to the stunning discovery that just about everybody I was friends with in high school was on the site. These weren't just the underage, uninformed dregs of society I was seeing share their favorite music at bone-chilling volume and wax poetic about why things suck; these were intelligent, fully functioning adults--several of whom possess advanced postgraduate degrees, making them way smarter than me. And it's not just faces from the past that I see on MySpace; friends and colleagues whom I see in person on a regular basis are also making little virtual homes for themselves on the site at a growing rate...and just about every time one of them joins, I receive an invitation to follow suit.

Is it inevitable? Will my snobbish contempt for MySpace ultimately prove ineffective in the face of the site's seemingly all-encompassing magnetic pull? People much wiser and more productive than me have fallen into lockstep with MySpace Nation--does not that mean that the writing is on the wall?

Perhaps. But I'm not bowing yet. And as I find myself once again a man without a website, I turn--in a bit of inadvertent poetic symmetry--back to the place from which I once came to begin anew. Blogspot may have changed its name and grown up a little, but so have I. Now that I'm getting my own blog going on the site again, however, one thing is sure to remain constant:

I will be talking to absolutely no one.


Sandy Knauer said...

And it is a perfect mission statement. Gather does not deserve you.

Stevo said...

Gather blows. I hate to see you leave, but I will soon follow suit.

suaros said...

Hey Johnny, I’m stopping by for a quick visit to check out your new digs (not sure where to put this bottle of wine). By the way, on the Gather article I loved the subtle touch in the comment section. Even a few lightbulbs flickered. Although the Gather site has been a huge disappointment, building up membership on the backs of writers and then abandoning them, at least one huge benefit to me was finding true talent when it was there. You are one. Sandy. The Kids. Members who were lumped into a Gang of Thugs and Sockpuppets and Trolls (and all other names the medicated morons could squeeze out of their cement skulls).

I like the new turf. I’ll be taking weekly rides into Metroville. I have an old apartment around here somewhere. Maybe I’ll add some furniture. Looks like a good neighborhood. I can see Sandy’s porch from here.

suaros said...

Since it's getting close to awards night, I wanted to mention my Gather award of single greatest comment:

The award goes to Barbara S.

For her comment on a Chubbles article, "Johnny's black?"

John A (The AntiChrist) said...

Good to find you again, Johnny.