We Can’t Go Back to MySpace Because We Suck
It was the year Google bought YouTube, the same year then Vice President Dick Cheney shot a lawyer in the face during a hunting accident, the year Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray. “The Da Vinci Code” and “Cars” were raking it in at the box office and “Borat” took his first stab on the big screen. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ludacris and Gnarls Barkley were duking it out at the top of the Billboard. Sure, we still had a Bush in the White House and seemingly never ending wars in the Middle East, but unlike now, the political fray did not consume us.
Through it all, we had MySpace as an escape, with our free music downloads and customizable pages, rolling photo albums and choice playlists — it was literally our own space where we could connect with likeminded strangers and share our creative sides. Albeit naive, there was still a sense of newness and hope in the technology that connected people, an artistry that drove our online personas — it was a beautiful calm before the shit storm that would soon befall us.
The platform boasted 100 million users in 2006, in the magic age of social media before Facebook became the Mecha-Streisand that crushed our innocent souls and set us on the path of hateful rhetoric and toxic narcissism we now bathe in from sunup to sundown.
Oh, 2006, how far we’ve fallen.
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It’s not surprising to see that MySpace is trending today, with people craving simpler times and less heated exchanges on the intertubes, nostalgic for days when your ignorant aunt barely knew how to turn on the computer, let alone post propaganda.
Ironically, MySpace was trending on Twitter Tuesday, on the same day Facebook satan Mark Zuckerberg and the beard that is Jack Dorsey were testifying to Congress about their platforms’ policies surrounding political messaging and disinformation. That weird dichotomy only highlights our inability to go back — we can’t bag up the basket of rabid kittens we’ve let loose. Like it or not, after more than a decade of likes and dislikes as commodities and information sharing as political weaponry, we’re beyond the pale.
The days of online innocence are gone. Period.
We now live in an age when the sitting president uses Twitter to call half the population “scum” and we in turn justify telling the sitting president to go fuck himself in the public realm. That’s not to say we didn’t feel those things in 2006, we just didn’t have the keyboard warrior balls to etch those feelings into posterity. People were genuinely concerned back then that the goons would show up at our doors and lock us up at Guantanamo Bay if we even whispered our dissent on tapped phone lines.
Let’s be clear, it’s a good thing we don’t fear our government the way we once did, but we should also mourn the hit to our humanity, our capacity for compassion and tolerance reduced to 280-character viral smackdowns. It’s hard to say whether it was the perversion of social media that created this beast or if we molded the tool to reflect our imperfect selves. Nurture versus nature, the chicken or the egg — we’ll be analyzing the phenomenon for generations to come and will probably never agree on the origin of our de-evolution, but we will agree that at some point we devolved.
No, we cannot go back to MySpace, as fun and pure as that may sound. Regardless of how we got here, we are the reason we can’t have nice things. It will take serious reflection and will power to move beyond the toxic world we’ve embraced, and while that’s not impossible, it will be hard. This is now our burden to bear.
So, let’s raise our glass to the good old days and hope we can someday make more.