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I Need a Hit of that Myspace!

Is it techno-evolution or devolution of social discourse?

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I was introduced to Myspace about two weeks ago and reluctantly got a Web page and set up all my profiles and stuff. My friend D walked me through the process.

Within five minutes, a half-naked female messaged me asking to be added to my friend list. I told D, "Oh man, this technology can get someone in trouble." Friends started finding me and adding me, and vice versa, and all of a sudden I had a little community of people and their profiles on my page. No need to call them, no need to grab lunch -- just see if they are online and drop a message. Thinking back on college and growing up in the instant-message age, I realized this universal access to technology has really driven the way my generation communicates.

I asked a friend Shane if she thought all of the communication technology we have today has ruined human interaction, and she wrote to me (via Myspace, of course): "This inability to face our friends for a nice tête-à-tête is bound to continue and possibly become more apparent as new technology surfaces and makes a life of fast-paced, gigabit solitude more and more feasible."

Yet we both agree with the many positives of easy access to information and seamlessness of communication. I am just curious if this sudden access to incredible technology has aided in the clear dumbing down of our nation, beginning with young people.

In the click of a button we can get groceries, buy our wardrobe, earn a masters degree and get a date without leaving our chair. People don't have to interact much anymore: We can have meetings through teleconference, and we can talk on message boards to find out our political perspective and get the latest sound bites to throw out during debates. With Myspace being the latest revolution in the Internet Age, I worry that it gives us one more reason to not go out into the world and meet new people. It seems the Internet has taken the place of personal exploration; we do it on our computers so we don't have to do it in real life.

It is true we live in an increasingly cruel world, but is it so callous we can't step outside our computers to touch real people and real things? I'm not saying everyone on Myspace is a hermit, but I do wonder how much it affects the way we all engage people outside of our desks and computers. If you browse the Web pages on Myspace, you'll find poets, artists, political junkies and even celebrities all together in this digital world. Some pages are real and some aren't. (I just added Jennifer Lopez as my friend.) In some ways, it's like everyday life. People show you whatever side of themselves they want you to see. Myspace is in many ways a rebellion against a "real world" that has become increasingly clouded by blind commercialism and materialism; a world in which people judge others on social definition rather than on individual merits.

On Myspace, artists can show their works without worrying about commercial acceptance; friends can keep in touch from across the world; and long-lost friends can reconnect. For better and for worse, Myspace allows people to shape perceptions of themselves by building a visual resume for the world to see, whether true or not.

You can fill your space at Myspace with video clips and song blips that keep the mind busy and away from the doldrums of the world. It seems sometimes like we aren't required to create but merely adapt to a plethora of ready-made templates of an existence. As Shane asked me at the end of our digital convo: "Is all this technological access an evolution of the human brain? Or is it devolution, the void of ideas, the inability to think for [one's] self?" I don't know the answer to that question, but if you add me (www.myspace.com/1decker) to your Myspace friend list, I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen.

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