Replicating Reality- And Making it Better

The introduction of cyberspace to the world has created a global opportunity for socially constructed space where individuals may engage with one another, be entertained in social networks and also socially reconstruct themselves in a new environment. Myspace is currently the most popular online social networking community on the Internet with at least 95 million members from all over the world. Why do so many people replace time from their physical social lives with virtual social lives? What are the benefits and implications? r comments, the mroe others. This essay will focus on why many people join Myspace, how it differs from physical social communities and what might be the affects on society and the future.

According to Howard Rheingold (1993) the dynamics of cyber community is very similar to those in physical community; they consist of people exchanging thoughts, information and knowledge, sharing emotions, making friends and developing relationships, playingotions, makerefeel more confident in communication and more expressive and more revealing. games and having fun. The difference is that one reality is face to face while the other is computer screen to computer screen (David Silver, 2000), this difference is crucial to the popularity of cyberspace. Cyberspace allows people to re-create their social image for a different social network both physically and mentally. A Myspace page is entirely self-centred and is structured to allow an individual to express their self-concept and digitally edit images to enhance them in some way (Fred Gooltz, 2006). Whoever is exposed to that page will likely take a very different impression of that person than if they met physically. As a result of this slight reinvention and the lack of physical contact, individuals can feel more confident in communication and more expressive and revealing. This better 'self' offers permanence, reliability and satisfaction; they can now enter a social scene playing a more agreeable role.

How different is socialisation in virtual reality compared to in physical reality? Socialisation involves trying to fit into a social class hierarchy where an individual attempts to convey identity to others by testing different personas and receiving criticism and advice from peers. People learn what is popular and what is not, what is and isn't acceptable behaviour and how to communicate appropriately in different contexts (Boyd, 2006). Myspace socialisation is very similar. Individuals use a profile to express who they think they are or "write themselves into being", and unconsciously what they would like to be (through edited images), leaving out the negative information. 'Friends' provide feedback in the form of compliments or suggestions regarding profile creativity, personal traits and photographs. The aim is to be accepted and receive peer validation. Myspace removes the social hierarchy and gives the individual more power in determining their social stance.ld like to be (through edited images)ividuals use a profile to express who they think they are, and unconsciousnly what the

An important aspect of Myspace is making 'friends', it is easy to search for people with similar interests and simple to join groups of like minded people. Some individuals genuinely want to meet and develop relationships with others but some people are on Myspace seeking attention. This is most observable with members posting default images of themselves dressed scantily. Even members who do not behave provocatively attempt to maximise attention. A typical example of a member blatantly seeking attention is when they have hundreds or thousands of friends they don't speak to or know, post pages of pictures all digitally edited, constantly post bulletins and blogs about themselves and only ever write comments to others that say 'Thanks for the add'.y on your page.eople to see something they added to their page or by writ Each method invites people to respond or create activity on their page. In the end every member attempts to seek some attention whether that is the aim or not. However, according to Mead (1934) and Cooley (1964), the personal disclosure is important in the building of relationships. The more information is disclosed the more likely trust and respect is to grow. Thus it is almost inevitable that through attempting to gain attention in this context, one also gains friendship (Cutler, 1995).

A theory as to why some youths revert to virtual social life is that they have less freedom in the physical environment to go out and have fun. According to Danah Boyd (2006) "there are three important classes of space; public, private and controlled". Between parental authority at home, getting through school, job and exercise duties, teenagers are mostly in a controlled environment. A cyber network like Myspace gives youth the opportunity to create a space for youth socialisation that is a public environment without restraints and where adults are not figures of authority. In fact it is common to make friends, enter discussions and debates with people of all ages. Another reason that a network like Myspace predominantly attracts teenagers is the culture, which includes fashion, music and media.

One advantage to socialising on Myspace is that it offers entertainment. Anyone can listen to and download music, watch video clips or whole television episodes, watch and listen to comedy shows, join interesting forums, and look up film and music information. All from the comfort of one's own computer. Members can upload songs and videos onto their pages and share them with friends. Why spend money and time going to the video shop or driving to your friends' homes when you don't have to move at all? Also, commenting or sending private messages to friends on Myspace is much cheaper and effective than talking on the telephone. On Myspace a single blog or bulletin can announce an event or any information to all 'friends' simultaneously (Ulmer, 2006). It seems many people consider it a preferable method of communication (Angelita Caudillo, 2005). The fact that a site like Myspace is free has further implications. It attracts all sorts of people to advertise or adopt Myspace as an official site. Myspace was originally set up for music bands to advertise and post information but now anyone is invited to do so. Because of this, anyone can easily send and receive messages from celebrity personalities and broader peer groups in general.

Myspace offers the opportunity to meet new people- but it also allows a person to meet old friends. When I joined Myspace, I discovered a group set up for people who went to my primary school. There I was reunited with class mates I had not seen in many years. Anybody can create a group for their school and it becomes easy to track fellow students down if they have a Myspace account. A search engine allows a member to search for particular people. That way one can meet a co-worker, an old friend and perhaps an old love interest (Angelita Caudillo, 2005). Some people have even met new love interests on this cyber network. Since Myspace is a non-tangible social network, information is the only means for exchange between individuals. Interaction occurs continuously and groups inevitably form around shared interests. Finding people with similarities often leads to friendships or relationships.

Meeting strangers through the Internet has often been seen as a risk. While this opinion cannot be dismissed, Myspace again offers an advantage. Most members upload photos of themselves and disclose enough personal information to conjure some trust. They also participate in public conversation with friends they know in the physical world, adding to their credential. If a person is trustworthy, there are many benefits in speaking to and getting to know a new person, apart from broadening social contact. Because Myspace is open to people all over the planet, it is common to meet and develop relationships with people from overseas. It is rare to actually meet these foreign personalities and this knowledge has an affect on the conversation that takes place. It is very common for Internet 'pen-pals' to talk about and reveal deeper personal thoughts and feelings to one another than to people they meet face to face. There is a perception of invisibility that creates feelings of comfort and confidence in self and expression that might not otherwise exist. 'Invisible' friends are always there; they listen to problems and embarrassing secrets and will most likely reciprocate with their own issues. If they judge or react badly to something that is said then nothing is truly lost- it isn't as though you'll actually meet them anywhere.

Similarly, blogs have sometimes been called 'therapeutic' due to their interactive nature. A blog is an online journal where a person can write about their thoughts and feelings, beliefs and viewpoints or just talk about what is occurring in their life. Friends can read and reply to blogs, adding their own opinions, sharing insights or offering advice. From a psychoanalytic perspective, since bloggers realise that their personal thoughts and problems are being viewed by the public they may conceptualise blogging simultaneously as private journaling and a support group (John Suler, 2007). Therefore blogs are written less as private musing and more for public viewing. This opening up of self occurs more regularly on a cyber network that in a physical social group.

Are there social risks in cyber networks? According to Nancy Willard, Director of the Centre for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, a big concern is for young teenagers who have incomplete frontal lobe development which affects judgement and decision making skills. This can be dangerous on public social sites like Myspace where too much information can be exposed and it may be easier to misjudge individuals. The two most frequent unsafe actions include over disclosure of personal information and risky sexual behaviour.

Are cyberspace networks like Myspace reshaping lifestyle? It is affecting the methods of learning, communicating, socialising, debating, shopping and advertising. Advanced technology that allows for Myspace social networking influences the dynamics of time and space. The concept of locale is minimised; extended relationships become common and cheaper (Bernard, 1973). Myspace creators Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe are constantly looking for ways to upgrade and enhance Myspace features and contents. DeWolfe explained, "We want to be a lifestyle brand." They are looking into wireless technology and hope to become big competitors with companies such as Virgin Mobile (Business Week Magazine, 2005).

Why do some people replace time from physical social lives for virtual social lives? What are the benefits and implications to individuals and society? In this essay I have addressed these questions with reference to socio-psychological explanations, including peoples' conscious and unconscious desires to advance the social hierarchy by bettering themselves, the preference for cheaper entertainment alternatives, the excitement of meeting new and old friends, the 'therapeutic' effects of interaction and the possibilities of future lifestyle. The social dimensions in virtual networks including Myspace are perceived as similar to those in physical reality. However, users are drawn by certain advantageous factors such as 'perceived invisibility', greater control over self expression and availability of technological resources. For these and other reasons mentioned in the essay, cyberspace is becoming more popular everyday.