Coffee shops are classrooms for life lessons and insights on human behavior. Today's lesson was about the perils of tech elitism that I think the echo chamber of Facebook and Twitter perpetuates: that MySpace is no longer a "space" to be.
A conversation with a gentleman yesterday at a Starbucks in California's Inland Empire challenged me to address this issue. As I was furiously typing in a marathon work session, a gentleman politely interrupted me to comment on the rapidity (and ferocity) of my typing. "Sorry for asking, but I see that your screen keeps updating. What are you/what is it doing?"
He pointed at my TweetDeck. I explained what it was, and he asked, "Do you know all of these people? Are they your friends?" It forced me to pause, and then I explained how I had connected with different people on Twitter. A group of people I knew in person, a handful were people I had met at conferences, others I had been connected to and some I just find interesting.
It was apparent that he was taken with the idea of Twitter. He liked that you could just follow people and learn things. That someone could decide to jump in and out of Twitter. Then, with a genuine smile and a look that seemed to be seeking some approval, he asked me the million-dollar question: "I use MySpace. Are you on MySpace too?"
Without thinking, I said, "Yea, I have an account, but I don't really use it." Oops. #socialfail. I got a well deserved "Why not?" in response. Although I could have tiptoed around so as to not offend the guy, I was honest. I am not an active user because it does not facilitate my intellectual and professional interests. Twitter satisfies the information broker in me. Facebook is how I keep track of colleagues and other people I want to keep connected with. The last time I was in my MySpace account was probably five months ago to update it for professional reasons. I use MySpace as a tool for clients if their constituents use it.
His impression of Facebook aligned directly with my comments: "It is for people who go to college." He pointed around the restaurant, making a circle with his finger: "MySpace is our space."
The sentiment behind the gentleman's "MySpace is our space" comment is one of wanting to avoid exclusion. He felt like he did not belong on Facebook. This is not the first time I have heard comments to this effect. A person's use of MySpace is for the same reasons I use the social networking tools I use. They find personal utility in its offerings for their life. The users of MySpace are diverse. It is superficial to cast off MySpace as merely a "digital ghetto" because its demographics may be different from that of the other social networks.
I encourage people to answer her question. Then, I implore MySpace to listen and innovate. Many of us joined MySpace before we joined anything else. Millions of people across the world are still only using MySpace. What are we missing by not including ourselves?
Lifelong nerds like myself should know what it's like to be excluded. We're not that cool, so let's stop acting like it.