Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bondage and bonding online (Op-Ed by David Brooks in NY Times)

We run a family-friendly blog here at Connectedness, with the occasional wink. So my first reaction on sampling the world's most popular online social network, MySpace, was "how can I report on this?" (Well, actually that was my second reaction, but we'll leave my first reaction for another time, another blog.)

So here comes David Brooks to the rescue, following up last month's story on human capital with a thoughtful NY Times Op-Ed piece on MySpace ("Bondage and Bonding Online"). He concludes with a split decision:
  1. Today's young people are happy, wholesome, and amazingly community-minded, and the online smut is just a way of demarcating an adult-free social space.
  2. Today's prolonged adolescents are filled with earnest desires for meaningful contact, but live in a culture that has provided them with no vocabulary to create these sorts of bonds except through cleavage and vodka.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

David Brooks NYT Op-Ed Jan 8, 2006

http://select.nytimes.com/2006/01/08/opinion/08brooks.html

"Dude, we totally need to hang out. …Erin, you're a [great] waitress and friend. We definitely need to hang out sometime. ... You rock my world. It was awesome seeing you.... Where did you go!!! I haven't seen you in a long time and I NEED to see you! !! Cause I love you! !!... Happy New Year my sexy friend. I love you sooo much!"

Companionship isn't dead. Go to MySpace.com or Facebook or Xanga or any of the other online sites where people leave messages on the home pages of their friends and you'll see these great waves of praise and encouragement. People visit their friends' pages and drop love-bombs. There's scarcely a critical word about anyone or anything in the whole social network. It's just fervent declarations of friendship, vows to get together soon and memories of great times gone by.

Some sociologists worry that we're bowling alone, but these sites (MySpace has 20 million visitors a month) are all about community. They're commonly used by people in the new stage of life that's been created over the past few decades. They are in their early to mid-20's; they're out of school but have no expectation they should marry soon. They're highly mobile, half-teen/half-adult, looking for a life plan and in between the formal networks of school, career and family.

So they bond online with an almost desperate enthusiasm. The Web pages they create are part dorm room wall, part bulletin board, part young person's society page. They post photos of favorite celebrities, dirty postcards and music videos. And there are tons of chug-and-grins: photos of the gang gripping beers at a bar, photos of the tribe chugging vodka on the beach, photo of the posse doing shots at an apartment. Scroll down the page and then are people falling over each other beaming and mugging for the cam era phone.

You can see why Rupert Murdoch just spent $580 million to buy the company that owns MySpace. It's become a treasured institution and, in many ways, quite a positive one.

But, this being youth culture in America, of course there's something to make parents cringe.

Every social environment has its own lingua franca, and the one on these sites has been shaped by "American Pie," spring break and "Girls Gone Wild." The sites are smutty. Facebook, which is restricted to students and alumni of colleges, is rollicking but respectable. But there is a huge class distinction between the people on Facebook and the much larger and less educated population that uses MySpace. The atmosphere on MySpace is much raunchier.

To get the attention of fast-clicking Web surfers, many women have posed for their photos in bikinis or their underwear or in Penthouse parody, "I clutch my breasts for you" positions. Here's a woman in a jokey sadomasochistic pose. There's a woman with a caption: "Yes, I make out with girls. Get over it" - complete with a photo of herself lip-locked with a buddy.

The girls are the peacocks in this social universe. Their pages are racy, filled with dirty jokes and macha declarations: "I'm hot and like to party. Why have one boy when there are plenty to go around?!" The boys' pages tend to be passive and unimaginative: a guy posing with a beer or next to a Corvette. In a world in which the girls have been schooled in sexual aggressiveness, the boys sit back and let the action come to them.

On most Web pages, there's a chance to list your favorite TV shows and books. And while the TV lists are long ("The OC," "Desperate Housewives," "Nip/Tuck," etc.) many of the book lists will make publishers suicidal: "Books! Ha! Me! What a joke! ... I think reading's ridiculous. ... I don't finish books very often but I'm attempting 'Smart Women Finish Rich.'... This is what I have to say about books (next to an icon of Bart Simpson's rear end)."

The idea on these sites is to show you're a purebred party animal, which leaves us fogies with two ways to see MySpace.

The happy view is that this is a generation of wholesome young people building nurturing communities and the smutty talk is just a harmless way of demarcating an adultfree social space. The dark view is that these prolonged adolescents are filled with earnest desires for meaningful human contact, but they live in a culture that has provided them with no vocabulary to create these sorts of bonds except through cleavage and vodka.

Depending on the person, both views are true.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of MySpace. I hate to say it, but in a lot of cases, this article is correct. There are a lot of idiots in my generation with no concern for culture and knowledge. These are the same people with no respect for others let alone themselves. Life is one big "spring break"-esque porno ripe with keg stands and bikini clad "chicks". Despite this, though, I feel as if it is unnessecary to classify us all into that group. My 300 + friends on Myspace do read! In fact, we read quite fervently. We care about our future, not only for our own sake, but for our parent's sake, our sibling's sake, and,one day, our offspring's sake. We have Master Degrees in Biology and Bachelor Degrees in Literature. We are inspiring artists who aren't starving. We make beautiful music. We stand up for what we believe in and actually DO something about it rather than just talk about it. We start local chapters of Food not Bombs to feed people less fortunate than ourselves. We Co-Op and educate. We are aware of what is going on in the world, and we don't turn a cold shoulder to it. WE READ THE NEW YORK TIMES. WE READ THIS ARTICLE! WE ARE TAKING A STAND AGAINST THIS STEREOTYPE. There is no use arguing with those who make us look bad. All we can do is our best and hope that it is enough to make a difference. I think it will be more than enough. The purpose of this comment was specifically to educate everyone reading this blog. It was to allow you to know that not everyone is posing half naked in a picture while swigging on a bottle of vodka. There is hope, and it is in us.

roxxy said...

wow i was searching for this ny times article as i heard something vague about myspacers not knowing how to read. heres the thing, i use myspace, im 25 years old, ive been married for 7 years, and i have FOUR children(yes, really). i use myspace to keep in contact with old highschool friends and such, as i have moved around quite a bit. i love having one central place where its easy just to check messages, drop in and say hi, and read up on the latest news in the lives of those i love. there are many of us who use myspace in this way... we arent just a bunch of halfnaked, uneducated, ghettotalking teenagers. my books list, as well as many of my friends are expansive. most of which on our lists are (SUPRISE!) non-fiction. in my "tv" section is a poem by shel silverstien and i belong to a few groups who debate politics, talk about religion, and discuss poetry. were not all pocket protector dorks with coke bottle glasses either. i have lots of honest friends on myspace(not internet aquaintences, mind you) who are indescribably fascinating. i think david brooks needs to look a little closer, some of the most intelligent, funny, and amazing people i know have myspace accounts.

Vivian Yung said...

Thank you for posting the full text of Brooks' article. I had received a MySpace about him (David Brooks of the NY Times claims that no one on myspace reads books. Let's prove that smarmy, sophomoric, self-satisfied little cretin wrong, once and for all.) and I was just wondering what he really said.

OUT VOICED said...

right now as i type this David Brooks is reating his words.. or at least we can hope he is .. a retraction would be nice.. I am 34 and have 5 diffrent myspace accounts... i have no nude or sugestivly nude photos on any of my pages one is for my band , one for my personal music i make one for my political activism and world important convos and real friends and the other 2 rarely used as a filter for all the real people out there whi i desire to talk to .. today a bulliting poped up on my page sent from a friend who also reads.. avidly.. and it said :

Worth Reading about
David Brooks of the NY Times claims that no one on myspace reads books (Not sure if that is true - FS). Let's prove that smarmy, sophomoric, self-satisfied little cretin wrong, once and for all.

List one book that you would recommend to just about anybody for whatever reason (funny, poignant, bizarre, erotic, inspiring, disturbing, etc.).

0. Sun Tzu: the art of war!! everybody should read this book!!!
1. Joseph~ The Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan
2. Michael - Don Quijote de la Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes
3. Fuzzco - Quantum Psychology - Robert Anton Wilson; Ruining it For Everyone - Jim Knipfl
4. Jumpy: THE CATALOG OF COOL, edited by Gene Sculati
5. Agent45 - A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (it's just the last one I read)
6. Eric- The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kozinski
7. Grace--The Bridegroom, by Ha Jin, collection of short stories, lots of fun
8. Megan- East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's the best book I've ever read...
9. Brooke- John Douglas."Mindhunters"
10. Mark - Ernest Hemingway "The Sun Also Rises";
11. Caroline-David Sedaris"Me Talk Pretty One Day"
12. buck satan - dispatches by michael herr.
13. pumpkin- Savage Night by Jim Thompson
14. jim - Hellfire by Nick Tosches
15. David - The Dream Songs by John Berryman
16. Lyndsay~ The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
17.I'm on the Guest List-by Chris Walter and anything by R.Jeffers
18. Megha -- A Fine Balance-by Rohinton Mistry
19. Knocker - The Selfish Gene: Richard Dawkins
20. Simon - 'The Time-Traveler's Wife' Audrey Niffenegger
21. Charlie - 'Lullaby' by Chuck Palahniuk
22. Zara - 'The House That Jack Built' by Graham Masterton
23. Joey - 'Les Miserables' Victor Hugo
24. Laura~The Illiad and the Odessey
25. Kydel~ 'The Divine Comedy' by Dante Alighieri
26. kunimitsu - 'The Wheel Of Time' robert jordan
27. Scotty - 'Good Omens' Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. A great, smartly written comedy about the end of the world.
28. Xaelra - what kunimitsu said. Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I bet David Brooks couldn't even get through one of the books. They're at least 600 pages long a piece, and there's 12 books in the series... and STILL going. Fuck DB.
29. S'ym ~ The Complete and Unabridged Works of William Shakespeare
30. Eric - "Brave New World" as well as "Island" by Aldous Huxley, and "Invisible Monsters" or "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk
31.Dusty - "1984" by George Orwell, "Choke" by Chuck Palahnuik, and "Eisner/Miller" by Frank Miller and Will Eisner
32. Morningkill - "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman
33. Jimmy - "On a Pale Horse" by Piers Anthony
34. Danielle BROOKS - no relation...I promise! I recommend "The Face" by Dean Koontz , its good shit. Another? "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown. Another? "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown. Take that you sorry sack of NY Times shit.
35. Anything by Dan Brown (Angels and Demons or The Davinci Code) or anything by Shakespear (the best is Romeo and Juliet)> Some other great writers are Pastors such as Paula White or Creflo Dollar or Rick Warren. Anything that makes you think or reevaluate yourself or your life.
36. Anna -- I just read "The Perricone Promise" and am reading "The Perricone Prescription" both by Dr. Nicholas Perricone. An excellent read if you are into health, fitness, nutrition and science. :)
37. stephen king - the stand...the unedited version...all 1141 pages of it...
38. the spaghetti jesus - the lord of the rings/the hobbit by jrr tolkien
39. wretchedbabydoll - 1984 by George Orwell should be required reading for EVERYONE
39. tekalpha - To Kill a Mockingbird
40. Wes - "Valis'' by Philip K. Dick
41. Crystal - "The Solitaire Mystery" by Jostein Gaarder.
42. Casey - "Blue Beard" by Kurt Vonnegut, I am also number 42 so if you want you can read into that as a book suggestion as well. I liked "the Great Train Robbery" also if only because it is one of the only Crichton books that hasn't been made into a crappy movie yet
43. trisha- the master and margarita by mikhail bulgakov
44. Lexe - The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, and The Giving Tree
45. Flintastic - The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell; My Life by Bill Clinton; Lincoln's Virtues by Miller; 1776 and/or John Adams by McCollough; Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill; and I'd really recommend that George W. Bush actually read the Bible.
46. Debi ~ "What Cassanova Told Me" by Susan Sawn; "The Dance of Intimacy" by Harriet Lerner; "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon; and "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger.
47. Heather~ Little Girl Lost by Drew Berrymore
48. Ren ~ Lucky Man (autobio) Michael J. Fox (I finally Finished it)
49. Trish>>> Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
50. Equality 7-2521 - Demons by Dostoevsky (just started)
51. Laura - Life of Pi (about 2/3 of the way through it and it's excellent)
52. Cami - "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran (I've read it more than once. It's a quick read, but I find it inspiring.)
53. Jon - "Weaveworld" by Clive Barker.
54. Judy- *Dracula* BramStoker (delicious)
55. Brian~ Dune by Frank Herbert (an odd mix of sci-fi, politics and mysticism.)
56.OUT VOICED.-. I READ AL THE TIME RIGHT NOW REreadig "451 farenheight" as well as . "the genesis race by"- will hart
"ganesha"Manuela Dunn Mascetti also great "Ishmael" and " My Ishmael" by daniel quinn.. I have and have read about 1/2 of so far over 1200 books in my house plust the 1000's I have passed on to others over the years so screw you david brooks..

generalizing and steriotypeing is as bad as saying all blacks are this ir all jews are that..
think before you write something like this Mr. brooks.. you may be offending the next President of the USA or you future boss.. MYspacers are everywhere.. I personally use it to connect with l iike minded people to discuss phiolosphy, politics,the enviroment ,art, and sprituality and oh so much more..

Anonymous said...

This is nothing new, for centuries the wise elders have complained about the recklessness and loose morals of their youth..

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint" - Hesiod, 8th century B.C.

"I mean such things as these: — when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me? — Yes." - Socrates

.. and especially applicable David Brooks himself:
"The young don't know what age is, and the old forget what youth was. " - Seumas MacManus

Anonymous said...

interesting. while some of this may be true, i think its extrememly unfair for brooks to make such vast generalizations. heck, some of my college friends moms have myspace accounts......

c.m. said...

Please consider using spell check when posting a comment arguing the intelligence of Myspace users.

At 34 I would hope you'd realize that typos, spelling errors, and complete lack of punctuation, kill credibility.