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Lost in MySpace (continued)


Spacial profiling

When it came time to create my MySpace account, I typed in the username "Camille" and discovered that an 18-year-old California girl with an adopted pet iguana inhabited www.myspace.com/camille. Hmm. I tried another variation of my name and initials (www.myspace.com/camilled), and found that it had been usurped as well ó by an 18-year-old Texan who had decorated her page with pistol-patterned wallpaper, four snapshots of Booneís Farm wine, and a headline that barked YOU CANíT HANDLE THIS BITCH. Her nickname was Chuggo, she liked Wendy O. Williams, Iron Maiden, Harry Potter, and Gilmore Girls, and she lashed out at just about anyone who might contemplate contacting her: "If youíre 25+, or in a band you know Iíve never heard of, leave me alone. Half the bands that add me suck ass and I donít care about you ... and really nasty bitches. I donít want ugly twats bothering me." I sent her a message anyway.

Although she seemed to hate strangers, Camille "Chuggo" seemed pretty comfortable publicly mulling over her very personal crises on her blog. Sheís not the only one: MySpace does tend to foster false comfort. Surgeries are popular blog subjects, as are messy break-ups and bad jobs. "Listen to Your Heart," a Floridian Mormon who babysits at a church, didnít think it was inappropriate to post pictures of her bikini-clad butt and bust (photographed separately) alongside images of her working with kids. Fernoís bloodstained friend Stacy trumpeted the eighth anniversary of losing her virginity and then alerted everyone to her upcoming breast-enlargement procedure. (She limited the before-and-after photos to her 7000-plus MySpace friends.)

The sketchiest sorts of users, however, are the people who actively log on to MySpace but donít update their profiles. One of the shadier MySpace experiences Iíve had was with a user named Tim whose profile didnít have any personal information except his age (30). If youíre a woman registered on MySpace, itís inevitable that random, grammatically and/or orthographically challenged men ó guys who describe themselves as "part time construction worker full time party aminals" or whose profiles say they want to meet "Girls Who Love Having Fun, Getting Drunk, [and] Sex Freak[s]" ó will send you grossly flirty notes. Tim was one of those sorts. He asked if I wanted to instant-message, right away outed himself as a liar by admitting he was 32, and claiming he didnít have a picture because he couldnít figure out how to use his webcam. When I ignored various notes littered with the dumb shorthand "lol," he persisted. "Iím sorry if u feel i was coming on to strong ... I do hope u want to keep talking."

All I really wanted to do was talk to Chuggo, who I now thought of as some sort of ghetto-wine-guzzling doppelgänger. Alas, she never responded. Last I checked, a friend of hers had posted an invitation to a birthday party with a weirdly disturbing ultimatum: "Everyone we like should come or else youíll contract AIDS and die!!!" Um, maybe I donít want to talk with Chuggo after all.

_CD

A lean, bass-playing Dungeon & Dragons fan with a pierced lower lip, septum, and nipples, Nashawaty doesnít want a relationship. His last serious girlfriend was way too controlling. "I like my space," he says, no pun intended. "Iím not clingy."

He works full-time for a Rhode Island sex-toy distributor, so perhaps itís no surprise that heís not psyched about celibacy. But the 23-year-old Wrentham resident also doesnít like approaching hot women in public. "Youíre not going to see a girl and think sheís hot and be like, ĎHey, whatís going on?í" he explains. "I donít like hitting on girls like that. I think it looks sleazy.

"If Iím looking at my friendís profile, I might see someone who catches my eye. Iíll read their profile and if that catches my eye, too, and it appeals to me, Iíll send them a message." If a dialogue ensues, theyíll likely instant message, then maybe trade phone calls. If those go well, Nashawaty will ask her out for coffee, maybe take her bowling or to dinner. This whole courtship process usually lasts two or three weeks. "I donít like rushing things," Nashawaty says.

He also doesnít do random hook-ups. "I want to know the person and know if theyíre clean." So before heíll sleep with a woman, Nashawaty will ask about sexually transmitted diseases and if sheís always used protection. He also wants to know how many sexual partners sheís had. The man has standards. "Over 50 [partners] is just oh-my-God. None of them have been anywhere near that." Once the sexual-history background check is cleared, two out of three times, Nashawaty and his date will end up sleeping together.

But Nashawaty is starting to sour on the process. Even though heís clear beforehand that he doesnít want a relationship, a couple of women have still actively tried to be his girlfriend. "I was like, ĎOh man, I told you, right?í"

And the last girl he met through MySpace was a huge disappointment. "When it got down to sex, there was more bad than good," he admits. "[She] just laid there. It was bor-ing."

Promote me

One of the main reasons Ferno was able to collect thousands of friends was that he had plenty of free time. A MassArt-trained graphic designer, heís been intermittently unemployed in his métier ó and heís an insomniac. "I felt like [using MySpace] was what I was going to do with my time at like four in the morning," the Abington native says on a recent afternoon at Herrellís, in Allston. And he says heís met some of the most important people in his life through MySpace. But for the most part, he started collecting friends with the thought that having the ear of thousands of like-minded people would be a great promotional tool for a band he might start one day. "I wanted to build a network and exploit it."

That ambition, multiplied thousands of times over, has been another major source of MySpaceís success: itís a network for musicians. In MySpaceís music section (music.myspace.com), artists can sign up for a page to post photos, show dates, biographical information, video streams ó all for free. Plus, each band page is equipped with online music players, so bands can post up to four songs. By offering these services, MySpace is handing over not only free server space and bandwidth, but also a mailing list of 22 million potential fans.

Consequently, thousands of music promoters invest thousands of hours searching MySpace for users with similar tastes, then inviting them to be friends. In the past three weeks, Iíve received requests from a Foo Fighters tribute band from Long Island; Zolar Plexus, a mawkish Denmark foursome that sonically falls somewhere between Bon Jovi and Enya; Human Bone Bicycle Sciences Industries, a grindcore/deathmetal Hartford band that sounds like grizzly bears eating Kim Jong Il alive; and Serge N, a Russian singer-guitarist who manages simultaneously to evoke Gorky Park, the Doors, and a soap-opera theme song.

Another group that tried to befriend me was Deep Thinkers, a socially conscious hip-hop duo from Missouri. I sent a message back asking why Midwestern rhymers sought out a writer from Boston. "I specifically search for people that like bands that are like the Deep Thinkers," Jeremy Willis, head of the Kansas-based Datura Records, later explained. Turns out, old-school hip-hop like Public Enemy and Ultramagnetic MCs in my profile prompted Willis to contact me. "We have a fan base basically in our hands, and itís free and it takes time," says Willis, who estimates that he spends three hours a day digging for potential fans on MySpace.

"Ultimately, word of mouth is the number-one thing that sells music," says Fenway Recordings head Mark Kates, whose Boston-based label has its own MySpace page. "MySpace seemed to be the next thing after Friendster. The major difference is that MySpace music specifically brings people together based on the music they like ó and thatís obviously natural for us and the artists to tap into."

Monika Majewska, the twentysomething Hartford woman who fronts the grizzly-bear-eating-Korean-dictator grindcore band Human Bone Bicycle Sciences Industries, signed up for a MySpace profile because so many people kept asking her band if they had one. "Every time weíd go to a show, somebody would say, ĎAre you on MySpace?í I was like, ĎAll right, we gotta do this.í Seriously, within like a week Iíve gotten 500 friends. Insane."

Michael Potvin, a Central Square resident whoís half of the local synth-pop duo Cassette, says his bandís MySpace page has become more useful than its own Web site. "Iíll go to a show and Iíll see people and recognize them from MySpace. And then the next time, Iím not embarrassed to be, like, ĎHey, I recognize you from your MySpace profile.í"

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Issue Date: July 22 - 28, 2005
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