Case study: MySpace – “A Poor Excuse for a Social Life?”
March 14th, 2008

A great deal of real and virtual ink has been spilled on social effects of online networking, comprising pros, cons, and mixed opinions and feelings. We are not here to rewind and synthesize the classic talks. Only to dissect a particular case that I encountered these days on the Internet, about a kid mocked by his teen brother and his brother’s friends because of his dedicated involvement with MySpace networking. Since I want to do this in a seminar-like manner, I’ll first present you the case in discussion. I can’t embed the original player here, so I’ll provide the link for the video material.

So, what do you think of that? Pretty discomforting, right? I thought so. It made me reconsider the disruptive effects of online social networking. Does it feed like a predator or a parasite on the back of the social networks in the real life? Does it provide a sanctuary in the face of bad real life relations with people? Is it a shy or handicapped people’s substitute for not being able to build and manage a social network offline? Or can it go in harmony with what’s outside the virtual environment, being a complementary tool and source altogether for practicing social skills, bonding more, learning more, having more fun and extending one’s social networks?

Of course, it can be all of these things. It depends on each specific case and on the manner in which the situation is viewed, handled, and valued. In this case here I’d say the teen team was very mean to the little brother, a specific teenage cruelty, putting a lot of pressure on the kid, making him one against all. Mocking him and laughing of him only makes him go deeper into and defend more fiercely the only world that accepts him and in which he feels comfortable: his MySpace network.

In the end, I’m thinking that parents, no matter how occupied, depending on their family structure and composition, should analyze the relationships within the family, how much each member invests in online networking and what virtual social networks mean to each involved member. So that virtual social environments like MySpace don’t become “a poor excuse for a social life,” but mediums that enrich a child’s life in the first phases of his/her life, when he/she develops bonding skills.

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