October 19, 2016

JAIN | On Myspace

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I had a pretty normal childhood. I never learned to swim or ride a bike or throw a curveball (okay maybe I didn’t have a totally normal childhood), but I did pretty much everything else and remember almost always having a good time. I had my close circle of friends from school and around the neighborhood, my family was supportive and I was too young to realize I was ugly. Life was good. Among the many fun parts of my childhood, such as racing Razor scooters playing and driveway basketball, very few compare to staying inside on my family computer messaging friends I lived next door to.

Just to elaborate, I’m not talking about AOL instant messenger. AIM wasn’t cool in my little Texas town because the little AOL running man mascot went against the inherently sedentary values of instant messaging, and Texas is all about upholding values. I’m talking about Myspace, as you probably already knew if you read the title of this column.

Myspace, for those of you who actually had normal childhoods, was a social media site created by some guy named Tom in 2003. Tom was automatically friends with every new user on the site, unless you had no soul and immediately deleted him upon joining. Tom was my first friend on the Internet and was unsurprisingly a white guy in his mid-30s, both of my parent’s worst fear.

In all seriousness, Myspace was a bizarre, sweeping craze in my middle school. Everyone heard of it through their older siblings and it quickly became a must have component of every Victory Lakes Intermediate School student’s social life. As I’ve already mentioned, Myspace allowed kids to have a simple instant messaging medium to talk their friends over. At first everyone used the feature to talk to their friends, something they could probably already do. Unsurprisingly, most kids also began to use Myspace instant messages to slide into other people’s DMs before sliding into your DMs was a thing.

Another interesting feature of Myspace was the top friends part of everyone’s profile. Essentially you chose a number, anywhere from four to 64, of top friends to display on your profile. This list was in order from first to last, so your hierarchy of friendship was uncomfortably clear. Everyone had at least one conversation with a disgruntled friend about his or her exclusion from your top friends. Also if you succeeded in sliding into someone’s DMs via Myspace instant messenger, you had no choice but to have that person as your top friend. This got tricky for people with best friends of the opposite gender, but all things considered, no one’s middle school romantic life mattered.

While writing this, I wondered what had ever become of Myspace. Everyone at my school transitioned to Facebook in high school and never really looked back. After doing a little research, I learned Tom and his buddies sold Myspace to News Corp for $580 million in 2005 before Facebook began to completely dominate every other social media website. Newscorp ended up selling Myspace to Justin Timberlake and his friends for $35 million in 2012, who re-launched the site in 2013 to bridge the gap between musicians and their fans, whatever the hell that means. Time went on to buy Myspace this past February, seemingly by accident while acquiring ad-tech company Viant.

While Myspace is kind of a joke now, it really was a huge part of my childhood. The strange instant message conversations and top friend arguments I had because of Myspace will always exist and stuff. And in all honesty, Myspace was a cool introduction to HTML for a lot of kids. If anything, I can definitely say Myspace had a weird impact on my life.

Akshay Jain is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ajain@cornellsun.com.College Stuff appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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