Let's Take A Trip Down MySpace Lane
We had no idea what we were doing. We were trying something new. And we loved it.
Internet Nostalgia explores eras of the world wide web and the way they impacted our day-to-day lives, psychology, and overall perceptions of the world around us.
If someone asked you to name your top eight best friends in front of all of your friends, could you do it? Probably not. Listen, I’m sure you have a true top eight list, we all do, but why would you want to break your friends hearts? You’re not like that. I know you.
You should feel lucky you don’t have to, because that’s what every MySpace user had to do. It was one of the many features that made the site unlike any social media we have today.
MySpace launched in 2003 by the famed Tom Anderson and quickly grew in popularity for being an easily accessible site to showcase who you were. It was unlike Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, where everyone’s profile has the same layout/palette designed by the company. MySpace let you do literally whatever the hell you wanted. If you wanted someone to be assaulted with “Low” by Flo Rida when they visited your profile, you could make that happen. If you wanted someone’s cursor to be a massive blinking heart when someone visited your profile, you could make that happen. If you were emo and wanted your website to rain black raindrops when someone visited your profile, you could make that happen. I did.
MySpace was a product of the early Internet, where surfing the web was a legitimate hobby, not just a necessity embedded into every second of our lives. In the days of Web 1.0, web pages were static, but there was no shortage of them. The Internet was a vast, well, web. Pages linked to others and took you down rabbit holes. The web had infinite room for experimentation, and users were ready to try it all. The thesis of Web 1.0 is deeply showcased in Myspace. MySpace gave you the ability to work with third parties in the code, which led to endless possibilities for what a “MySpace page” looked like. In turn, this also created a generation of mini-coders, including myself. Learning that if you just entered a certain string of letters and numbers, you could get a sick pink sparkling glitter background, you’re gonna figure out what the hell that string of letters and numbers is.
MySpace was, first and foremost, a social networking site. Sure, you added your friends, and your friends friends, but you also sometimes added someone you thought was Selena Gomez. There were no verification checks back then, so when you maybe, just maybe, happened upon the real Selena, you wouldn't take any chances. To this day, I swear the Selena on my friends list was the real Selena. She was too down to earth not to be.
The MySpace generation’s posting culture was very different from what we know today on the more refined, done-up Instagram. MySpace encouraged and rewarded grittiness, emotional posting, selfies upon selfies with digital cameras, and rants. If you posted a digital camera selfie on Instagram today with a rant about the party you went to last night, most would think you’re going through psychosis. Even if we try to bring that culture back to our current platforms today, which many people are, it is impossible to recreate. I’m sorry Caroline Calloway. We are all just too accustomed to the Internet. We have rules, we have standards, we have Internet social cues. Those didn’t exist on MySpace. We were free and figuring things out.
The lack of standards and social cues didn’t always lead to amazing outcomes. MySpace, like many other parts of the Internet, was often a dangerous place. Internet personalities that grew viral on MySpace tell the dark side of being so famous online, where everyone is anonymous and can reach you with the click of a button. One of the main issues these early sites had, and we still have today, was children online. Kiki Kannibal, a former MySpace star, talks about going viral at the age of 14 and seeing how older anonymous men mistreated and sexualized her.
I joined MySpace at the ripe age of 12. I had been surfing the Internet since I was 7 years old, so I was pretty comfortable with the Internet by the time I signed up with the username pinkpossumllamafairy. I quickly friended the two other people from my school on Myspace, and then friended the various Internet friends I had made throughout the years. I was golden. I was truly having the time of my life, constantly messaging my friends, meeting new people, editing my profile.
MySpace was also a media/music player that hosted music. I often found out about new bands through it. My online friends and I befriended this British band we discovered, called The Chain. It was made up of four guys, each in their 30s. We loved their music, although the quality was extremely bad, we supported them. In time, we became pretty close with the guys. We had group chats, would message on each other’s page all day, and of course, made the lead singer James our #1 best friend. James was the one we spoke to the most.
“I was golden. I was truly having the time of my life, constantly messaging my friends, meeting new people, editing my profile. ”
One day, James started messaging me and it was looking a little suspicious, as I’m sure you’re all already predicting. He was calling me pretty, asking me to chat on the phone, saying he liked me more than the other girls. At the age of 13, I already had developed a distrust in men. I stopped replying to him. I quickly messaged the other girls and told them the drama.
“He said the same thing to me! What the hell!” “Yeah me too!” “Let’s message him!”
This group of 13 year old girls, who had never laughed or spoke in person together, bonded over the pain of being a girl online. We drafted a long message to James. It detailed how he was a creep, disrespected us, broke our trust, and we will no longer talk to him or even listen to his music. It was sent to James, from my account. We all laughed together on a Skype call as I sent it.
The next week, James messaged me. I remember this message very vividly: “Caroline – Please pass this along to the girls. This is Mark. James died in a car crash a few days ago. He was very upset with you all. Wanted to let you know.”
I called the girls on Skype. We were astonished. We started sobbing together. We truly regretted sending that message. We promised to not tell anyone about this.
And then I forgot about it for 10 years. When I was 22, this memory came back to me.. I cackled to myself, telling all my friends the story with the obvious perspective of an adult. James was clearly a random ass guy who created terrible music on his own, made three other fake accounts for his bandmates, and messaged us through all of them. He was creepy, and when we caught him, he wanted us to feel so badly that he FAKED his own death. I had to go through this shit when I was 13 and I didn’t even know what was happening?! I wish something this dramatic would happen to me today.
What Kiki Kannibal and other stars detail about the fun, electric side of MySpace mixed with the dark side of MySpace is exactly what I went through, just on a much smaller scale. I was learning about the Internet. I was meeting new people. We didn’t know what we were doing. We were trying something new. And we loved it. Today, our sites feel as old as can be, deeply ingrained in our minds, with our muscle memory guiding every swipe of the Instagram story.
Writer’s note: I’m making an effort to try out some fun, new lesser known sites, and see the creativity people have to offer on the only place able to access everyone in the world. Right now, I’m obsessed with the simplicity and point & click/clickventure sites, like this greek mythological site that guides you through stories of the underworld. If you have any cool new sites you’d like to share with me, or want me to talk about a website from the Web 1.0 era you’re having a deep nostalgia for, please email me at email@example.com.