This topic was inspired a Skype conversation a few months ago regarding MySpace and Facebook (FB). If you don’t know by now, I’ve always been a dedicated fan of MySpace. My quaint devotion to this dying social outlet has gotten me my fair share of ribbing from my fellow colleagues, mostly from our onsite Social Media Goddess Carrie Keenan. To be honest, I never allowed myself to embrace what FB had to offer me—I mean it was just another MySpace clone with Farmville attached, right? It took me years before I finally hunkered down to get myself an actual FB account, and that was only because my job called for it.
Now that I got to look around and experience what FB offered, I began to truly see a fundamental difference between the two outlets. And regrettably, I must conclude that MySpace was forever destined to fail against the likes of FB and Google+ because of this difference. So why does FB have the advantage over my beloved MySpace? Why must I validate Ms. Keenan’s assessment that MySpace is dead?
It comes down the struggle between popularity vs. individuality. FB really capitalizes on our social need to put everyone and ourselves into cliques or groups—the need to be popular. That need to fit in or to have others’ approval is constant motivator for many people. This yearning to be popular has been magnified many times over during our socially formative high school years, where many of us truly learn to become an individual (or in some cases, the lack of an individual). FB promotes the concept of the Popularity Hierarchy, where the most popular people get the most praise and attention. This is most clearly shown by giving users the instant ability to cast your approval of someone’s behavior through the simple click of a “like” button. The other day, in fact, I was even forced to “like” someone just to get access to some app that I wanted to try.
By contrast, MySpace was more focused on the individuality. This is “My” Space on the internet. It was a place where you put your pictures, your blogs, and with a little know-how, you music playlist. People could write you messages, but you could always turn that off so no one could see what others said about you. You could truly be an individual on MySpace. Unfortunately the “individuality” model is destined to fail in the social media world, because marketing (the stuff that pays the bills) needs cliques and groups to advertise too, not individuals. Social Media is all about networking and linking to as many people as possible. This is why GeoCities failed (despite its attempts to group people) and this is why MySpace cannot truly compete with the likes of FB, Google+, or Twitter. Like in high school, the true individual is not the one that gets notice. They are the ones most people skirted around in the hallways. In essence, MySpace is the pariah of the social networking world, the freak, the weirdo, and the invisible.
Perhaps someday, MySpace will make a miraculous transformation and become a social butterfly again. But somehow, I think with will end up going the way of the rotary dial phones and the 300 baud modem. Who really knows? At any rate, it gives us something to talk about within our social media circles.