Home & Office

Is MySpace no place? Some students unplug from social networks

A college newspaper editorial raises the question of online friendships: Is this all there is?
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The latest hot Internet trend for university students might be one that gives Mark Zuckerberg night sweats. The Facebook founder is rumored to have scoffed at offers close to $1 billion for his company, but Gabe Henderson has a hot tip for social networking tips: MySpace is no place.

Henderson recently wrote an editorial for the Iowa State University newspaper, where he is a grad student, about how he's pulling the plug on MySpace and Facebook.

He writes:

With MySpace, I realized how easy it became to have and maintain "friends" in my life. I started to feel dissatisfied by the ease and convenience of it all. To my utter dismay and shock, I discovered my reliance on technology, manifested in MySpace and reduced my friends to comments, messages and pictures on a computer screen.

Entire human beings, full of complexities, nuances, beliefs, etc. being reduced to quick little remarks just so that the other person knows that the other still exists. The superficial emptiness clouded the excitement I had once felt.

The consequences are very subtle but significant. In a society in which technology, convenience and consumerism motivate our conceptions of how to operate efficiently, it seems we have lost to some degree that special depth that true friendships entail.

Is Henderson just a malcontent in the digital age? An AP story finds anti-tech to be a sensibility gathering steam.

Across campus, journalism professor Michael Bugeja — long an advocate of face-to-face communication — read Henderson’s column and saw it as a “ray of hope.” It’s one of a few signs, he says, that some members of the tech generation are starting to see the value of quality face time.

As the novelty of their wired lives wears off, they also are getting more sophisticated about the way they use such tools as social networking and text and instant messaging — not just constantly using them because they’re there.

And there are others:

  • “Maybe everything we thought was so great wasn’t as great as we thought,” says Tina Wells, the 20-something CEO of Buzz Marketing, a New York-based firm with young advisers all over the world.
  • “By and large, I would say most of my very geeky social circle prefers face-to-face interaction to mere Internet communication,” says Veronica Gross, an avid online gamer who is also a doctoral student studying neuroscience at Boston University.
  • "I discovered, after meeting many of these friends, that a good Facebook profile could make even the most boring person somewhat interesting," say Steve Miller, a 19-year-old sophomore at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.

Meanwhile Henderson's quite happy with his decision.

I'm not sacrificing friends because if a picture, some basic information about their life and a Web page is all my friendship has become, then there was nothing to sacrifice to begin with.
Editorial standards