Me, MySpace and I
I wrote this article in 2009, but the issues are still applicable. Therefore I find it worth sharing.
“Attention Whore”, “Get a life”, “Just commit suicide!” On the Internet you can say it all. Who’s stopping you? People are much harder and meaner online than they are in real life. Why would you even consider the feelings of others? As long as you’re having fun. The anonymity of Web 2.0 changes the people to selfish attention seekers.
The slogans in the introduction are not mine, they are reactions on the blog called ’90 Day Jane’. “I’m going to kill myself in 90 days” is the logline of the online diary of the 24-year-old American. She tells the world about the last days of her life. Visitors are yelling things, they would never have said in real life. Of course I have my doubts about 90 Day Jane. It’s the anonymous internet, where anyone can pretend to be whomever he wants. But is it just a cry for attention or is she actually planning to kill herself? With that question unanswered, you can not express your opinion like this, so fierce and ruthless. But perhaps Jane shouldn’t have asked for it.
Web 2.0, the new World Wide Web, is seen as a good development. It gives people the chance to do everything online, including generating their own content. YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are examples of websites that use this principle. Web 2.0 also enables people to respond to all user-generated content, so they can interfere everywhere. Is that a good development? Is that something that mankind has been waiting for? I don’t think so.
According to bestselling author Andrew Keen all this has to do with the infinite desire for personal attention. “Blogs and social networks are just about the ‘me’. People talk about ‘my weblog’, ‘my MySpace profile’ and ‘my videos’. It is about creating their own places in the virtual space. It is not much more than digital masturbation,” says Keen, “They say it’s all about ‘social networking’ with others, but in reality, the user-generated content exists to promote ourselves.”
And that brings us back to ’90 Day Jane’. Did she want to promote herself? Become popular? The answer didn’t keep us waiting. The blog was taken off the internet and ‘Jane’ explains that it was no more than an art project. She says she had to take her blog down, because people thought it was reality. “That is not a reaction that I expected nor can I morally justify.” Can you believe it? Of course, she expected this. She just wanted the fame, the attention and the feeling that what she did made a difference in the world. Virtual or real.
But Jane, don’t you realise the difference is already made? January 26, 2008 – Four suicide attempts after chat sessions. November 22, 2008 – Teen commits suicide on webcam. November 27, 2008 – Woman guilty of MySpace suicide. These are just a few of the messages in this manner. Bizarre, yes, but it’s nothing new. Proof is already found. Things that people do and say in the virtual world affects reality. And this is usually not something positive.
Not only suicide is propagated on the internet. So-called pro-ana and pro-mia web forums are promoting the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Because according to ‘Ana’s’ and ‘Mia’s’ these are not diseases, they see it as a lifestyle. They give tips on how to throw up or use laxatives to lose weight. The reports of these unhealthy wannabe supermodels are getting insecure girls in life threatening situations. ‘Ana’ and ‘Mia’ aren’t thinking about the consequenses. Their meddlesome, sick behaviour ruins lives. Supposedly, they help others, but they really only think of, you guessed it, themselves.
People forget their morality when they log in on their computer. They only keep an eye on things that have to do with themselves and their own egos. Look at ‘Jane’, ‘Ana’ and ‘Mia’. Yes, they get attention. And yes, they get plenty of visitors. That’s exactly what they wanted. But what they do already affected so many people. They reached their goal in a bad way, by using other people. Web 2.0 makes it easy for people to be selfish. But they are no better than anyone else, even if they have ten thousand friends on Facebook.Sources:
– Andrew Keen. The Cult of the Amateur. How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2007
– Website 90 Dag Jane Blogspot: http://90-day-jane.blogspot.com/
– Website NOS Headlines: http://headlines.nos.nl/forum.php/list_messages/9467
– Website De Pers: http://www.depers.nl/economie/127990/Web-20-is-zelfbevrediging.html
– Website Nu: http://www.nu.nl/internet/1408089/vier-pogingen-tot-zelfmoord-na-chatsessies.html
– Website Trouw: http://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/wereld/article1907124.ece/Tiener_pleegt_zelfmoord_voor_webcam.html– Website Nu: http://www.nu.nl/internet/1860353/vrouw-schuldig-aan-myspace-zelfmoord.html
– Website Pro Ana: http://www.pro-ana.be/
– Website Pro Ana Love: http://proanalove.punt.nl/