January 25, 2008

mySpace, myCulture

by Mary Flanagan · , 7:36 am

Lauren Collins’ 21 January 2008 article, “Friend Game: Behind the Online Hoax that led to a Girl’s Suicide” seems to me as significant and timely an examination of online culture as Julian Dibbell’s widely reprinted essay “A Rape in Cyberspace” first printed in 1993 in New York’s Village Voice. I highly recommend checking it out.

9 Responses to “mySpace, myCulture”


  1. andrew Says:

    Yeah, I read this article in the magazine — tragic.

  2. Dakota Reese Says:

    Hands down, Collin’s piece is the best examination of this tragedy that I’ve seen to date.

    I also agree that there is an interesting relationship between Collin’s article and Dibbell’s essay. I’ve been struggling to quantify it, but they seem to bookend each other as examples of sadism in online communities’ evolution from sub-culture to popular-culture. I know that’s a very base observation, but it is about as far as I’ve got with it.

  3. Ashley Says:

    It was a great article but a tragedy.Thanks for the link…

  4. William Patrick Wend Says:

    This horrific story came up in a few forums I read over the past couple months. Very tragic and sickening. As a teenager I was the victim of a few months of fake love notes from a “girl” I had a crush on. That was humiliating. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like as a teenager in 2008 to have to deal with this sort of sadism. When I was a teenager it ended when I went home. There was no Myspace to be mind fucked 24/7.

    Thank you for the link to the Dibbell article also. I need to give that a reread. The comment above about the move of this sort of behavior from subculture to popular culture is right on.

  5. Harry Giles Says:

    I’m actually left fairly unconvinced that there’s really much of an interesting online dimension to the events at all — or at least, not one that writer was capable of fully understanding. While Dibbell’s work led into a very involved discussion both of cyber bodies and fledgling politics, this article doesn’t seem to lead anywhere — and I wonder whether it’s not just a very ordinary case of cyber-bullying. The invented boy was only really controlled by one or two people (participation by the parents was totally minimal), and he wasn’t created for malicious behaviour from the offset. Yes, there was manipulation, but nothing we’ve not seen before, and the bullying aspect lasted for a really very short period of time before being tragically cut off. I suspect the cyber aspects of the case were far less a contribution to the suicide than everything else in her life — so what thye article more interestingly exposes for me is public and media hysteria, especially with relation to the internet.

  6. michael Says:

    When I was in elementary school, we had units on media literacy, specifically looking at how TV advertising tries to influence opinion. The units were designed to make kids reflective about televised media messages. Seems like today we need similar media literacy units, but focused on networked and computational media.

  7. Chris Lewis Says:

    For me, I think Harry gets it right when he says “I’m actually left fairly unconvinced that there’s really much of an interesting online dimension to the events at all,” particularly with regards to the Friends Game. Sadly, people will always be mean, spiteful and bully people. The game they were playing on MySpace sounds little removed from the gossip rumour mill of secondary schools around the world. I think it just sits with bullying in general, technology is just enabling a new medium. Emotional bullying needs to come with harsher penalties, although I admit I have no idea how such a law could be drawn up without it being too far-reaching.

    @Michael:
    It surprises me that you were taught these things in elementary school, certainly in the UK there was no such teaching until secondary school English classes. I’m not even sure that I would have been able to properly understand the concept when I was 11. Do you feel it worked well at that age? Certainly literacy with networked media needs to be taught before it can become a problem, but at that point you really would be working with 10/11 year olds to get there first. I don’t know how you would communicate the issues these essays bring up in a way that they’ll fully grasp. Although, perhaps I am just getting older and underestimating the intelligence of children, just like I promised I would never do when I was younger!

  8. mary Says:

    hi folks,
    thanks for the thoughtful comments. The pieces bookend each other, as Dakota notes, but I agree with Harry also — *how* exactly the online dimension works in the nuances of the experience could be explored more fully. Perhaps someone here could do research and if you find someting related, post in the comments to keep the theme growing. I dont mean to create a sensationalist buzz, but rather, one that investigates the nuances of how we participate in culture with online technologies in new ways…~m

  9. William Patrick Wend » Weekend Reading Says:

    [...] Grand Text Auto, a New Yorker article about the disgusting “Myspace Hoax” suicide.  As I note in the [...]

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