Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why Am I Here – One Word: Myspace

Online communities are the new fad in the ever-changing online world.

Back when I started in the online world, we sat behind big clunky dial-up modems operating at a whopping 300 baud. When they came out with modems that zipped by at 1200 baud and then later 14,400 (14.4K) modems, we thought that was an amazing technological breakthrough.

I even remember a discussion I was having back in the day, with a bunch of other computer geeks, about how nothing will ever go faster than 9600 baud. Standard telephone lines can only send information at 9600 baud or lower – they can’t go any faster. It is physically impossible for a standard analogue telephone line to go beyond the speed limit of 9600 baud.

Naturally, we didn’t know about fiber optics and digital telephone lines, which now make broadband high-speed digital connections possible over telephone lines.

That brings me back to the whole point of this – why am I here?

Online communities are the new method to meet people – for dating, one-night stands, friends, or just to kill some time online while you wait for an email to arrive.

I’ve always been hesitant to join any of these online communities, who has time to spare online? I work on a computer all day, why would I want to spend my free time in front of the computer screen? Aren’t most people online depressed, possibly even deranged and psychologically unstable?

Still, after browsing through some of the online communities, I decided to try it. The profiles I saw weren’t all from nutty characters. Some actually seemed quite intelligent, well rounded and interesting.

So, I went and signed-up with the McDonald’s of online communities – Myspace.

At first, Myspace seemed like an all right online place to be. There were crazy people, and a hell of a lot of young girls just promoting their naked webcams. But there were also a lot of interesting characters, with interesting stories, jokes and experiences to share.

I really started to get into the whole online community through Myspace. I became a Myspace addict even – checking my place on Myspace at least once per day, and often more than that. I’d message back and forth with Myspace friends, post jokes and blogs and enjoyed the feedback I’d get back.

Maybe this isn’t so bad?

Then, just like any addict being weaned off his drug of choice, the shakes came tumbling in.

At first the technical problems with Myspace were minor annoyances. Pages wouldn’t load when you clicked on them, or they would be excessively slow to load. Occasionally I would get server time-out errors such as “Server too busy” messages. Sometimes the errors were actually quite funny – there was one instance when someone placing comments on my profile actually took my profile’s picture and placed it where the person’s was, making it look like I commented on my own profile.

These bugs were annoying, even funny, but the Myspace technical wizards fixed them all within a couple of hours. I was actually quite impressed, because Myspace – as most online communities are – is a free service. There is no cost to join, so in theory, the Myspace technical wizards can take as long as they want to fix something.

And that is exactly why I am here.

One of those little, annoying bugs became a big bug – one which made it impossible for me to continue to use Myspace.

I would receive and send messages to my friends all the time. That was something I really enjoyed doing on Myspace. Then, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, I could receive messages, but anything I responded too, anything I sent out, was not getting to its destination.

My friends on Myspace would send me a message, and I’d respond. Only they would never see the response. The last message anyone received from me was Sept. 16. I reported the bug to the Myspace technical wizards. Within a couple of hours, I got an email back, telling me they were aware of the problem and working on it “please be patient,” it said.

I was relieved – they knew about the bug and were working on resolving the issue. Soon, I’d be back to happy Myspacing. . .

Nope. Nadda. Not going to happen. Not in my lifetime.

Days went by, which I thought unusual, as most bugs were fixed within hours. So, I sent another message to the Myspace technical wizards, and they sent me the exact same message they sent before, telling me that they were aware of the problem and working on it and to “please be patient.”

I tried being patient, I really did. It is hard to go to your online community, see your buddies sending messages, and knowing that no matter what you do, you can’t participate in this dialogue.

More time passed, days became weeks, but I was still unable to send messages. My friends seemed unaffected – they could send and receive messages no problem. It must be something to do with my account or a handful of accounts. I reported the problem to the Myspace technical wizards again, mentioning that I had reported this problem weeks ago and still was unable to send messages.

Shock, horror and disappointment. Nope, I didn’t get back the same response I had the last two contacts. This time, I didn’t get back anything from the Myspace technical wizards. Nothing at all. Not even a standard carbon copy of the previous responses – no messages whatsoever.

I was still receiving messages on Myspace from my friends, but as I couldn’t respond, I didn’t even bother to read those messages. I felt bad, but I was more frustrated than anything else. I felt left out of the very online community which I had joined to be a part of.

It wasn’t fair – why was my profile not working but everyone else’s seemingly unaffected? Why was Myspace not doing anything to help? Why me?

Life is often unfair, but in our battles to make it more to our own liking, we often solve our own problems.

For me, to solve this problem was quite easy – leave Myspace and take my blogs somewhere else. I’ll miss my friends on Myspace – though to be honest, if they were true friends they’d be in my life in more places than online.

I learned two valuable lessons out of this whole mess. The first one, your real friends are there with you, in real-time in the real world. There is more to friendship than hammering out your thoughts on your computer. To be a real friend, you have to be able to lend a shoulder to someone when they are sad, be able to go to the movies, coffee houses, bars, and other places in the real world, to really enjoy each other’s company. Real friends are really there for you – not just some artificially created online persona you may know as “Tickles.”

The second lesson I learned is the power of exclusion. When I was able to send and receive messages on Myspace, I was included in a virtual online world. As soon as I was unable to send messages, I was excluded from that world, and it made me feel like an outcast.

So, be gone shitty little fake online world of Myspace. You excluded me from your world, and so I have created my own online forum without you.

Myspace – where friends wonder why nothing ever works.

Good riddance to Myspace.

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