Danah Boyd, a PhD student at School of Information (SIMS) at the University of California, Berkeley, presented a paper about how teenagers are using MySpace, which lately has been receiving a barrage of negative publicity due to the death of a New Jersey teener who fell victim to an online predator whom she met in the biggest social networking site. MySpace boasts of at least 41 million members (including moi!) and is probably the hippest site of its kind as it also features profiles of music artists, downloadable and streaming music, videos and other newfangled widgets that make staring at one’s profile either eye-straining or simply pleasant. The network, which receives more page views than Google, was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp last year for $580 million.
I created a Myspace profile not as a means to hang out but to network, and then eventually for downloading mp3s or getting updates about indie musicians which are a dime a dozen on Myspace. In the short span of time that I’ve been keeping a profile which I visit once in three to four weeks, I’ve experienced receiving a sales pitch, comments on photos, getting-to-know-you and hi-hello private messages. No proposals for sex so far, thank you very much. Should the occasion arise, it’s best to alert the Myspace team should they be inclined to ban possible sexual predators. At one point, I was a social networking junkie and spent countless hours on Friendster which happened to be the most popular SN site in the country, and chatting with people of similar interest in online forums. However, I’d like to think that I’ve graduated from such pursuits as I find other facets of Web2.0 more interesting.
“So what exactly are teens doing on MySpace? Simple: they’re hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they’re doing with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out.” Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.
“For many teens, hanging out has moved online. Teens chat on IM for hours, mostly keeping each other company and sharing entertaining cultural tidbits from the web and thoughts of the day. The same is true on MySpace, only in a much more public way. MySpace is both the location of hanging out and the cultural glue itself. MySpace and IM have become critical tools for teens to maintain “full-time always-on intimate communities”  where they keep their friends close even when they’re physically separated. Such ongoing intimacy and shared cultural context allows youth to solidify their social groups. “