The other day I was reading over at Brent Thomas’ blog and I came across this interesting news article he had posted, In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year.
The answer to that question is apparently. The article is a fascinating look at the what is really the migration of teenagers from one online commmunity to the next. The article talks about the early rise of the online community Xanga which saw usership fall, later to virtually be replaced by MySpace. Now it seems that Facebook is the online community to be in.
I never used Xanga, mainly because I was late to the party. I’ve been running a blog since about August of 2004 and this site has been running since about May of 2005. This summer, after much hesitation and procrastination I decided to join MySpace and register our college ministry as well. I thought I was finally with the times, but soon realized that almost all of my students were on Facebook and not MySpace. So guess what. I joined Facebook and our college group started up a new site as well. We still keep MySpace, but the numbers at our MySpace page pale in comparison to our Facebook page and the use that it receives.
Is all of this making you dizzy? It is me, and that’s really the point. Who can keep up, and if you aren’t a teenager who are usually on the cutting edge of innovative and hip online communities, there’s no chance you or I will ever be totally up with the times and with it.
What is it that really attracts people to a site? You would think design or something like that, but it seems to be functionality (easy to use) and generated community (who and how many are in your community). That’s what MySpace seems to have. Ease of use and the branded name with an already huge, built-in community. But I personally love Facebook a 100x more than MySpace. It is much more clean looking, innovative and easy to use and view. But I’m getting bored like these teenagers as well. Why?
I think that this quote from the bottom of the article hits the nail on the head.
Evan Hansen, a sophomore at Falls Church High School, said he didn’t buy into the MySpace hype and is waiting for the craze to die.
“Over time, people are going to get sick of talking to people on the computer,” he said. “I just think people will want to spend more time with each other– without the wall of technology.”
I think people are getting sick of virtual community. Not the virtual community itself or what it has to offer, but rather, they are sick of more and more of their time being lived in this online community. It’s one thing to use these sites as places to connect, touch base and inform, it’s a whole other thing to spend 4-5 plus hours a day in these communities. What ends up happening is that the virtual community replaces the real community.
I’m going to continue to blog as much as possible (hopefully 4-5 days a week), and I’m going to continue to keep up my MySpace and Facebook profile as well as that of our group. It has enhanced ministry and relationships in some great ways, but it can never ultimately, or should never ultimately, replace the human element of community from our lives.
I think that these sites are good places to get information and to communicate, but not to live. There is obviously something much, much more rewarding with talking with a friend on the phone or sitting down over coffee with them. That is much better than returning comments and messages from 200 plus friends online that you rarely see. But these sites can be used to connect people. To move people towards more genuine in-person community.
Over the next week I am going to explore more about this issue of online community and the sites that are so popular. It is something that I am interested in and it is something that is relevant to our culture and especially the students I work with. And for those of us working in church, where community is so important, we want to be sure that online community enhances our lives, our ministries, rather than takes away from it.