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MySpace: A Place for All to Read 4.12.2006

By Rick Racela

RIO GRANDE – It has been called a procrastinator’s dream and a parent’s nightmare. It serves as an outlet for new music and a place to share videos, pictures, and maybe too much information.
MySpace.com, a social networking service that allows its members to create personal profiles online in order to find and communicate with old and new friends, is quickly becoming an Internet phenomenon and a source of controversy.
The site has won out over competitors such as Friendster and LiveJournal to become the most popular English-language social networking website with higher traffic and over 68 million registered accounts.
A recent search of male and female students between the ages of 16-20 on the site found 333 profiles were listed as attending or had attended Middle Township High School, 109 at Wildwood Catholic, 358 at Lower Cape May Regional, and 90 at Wildwood High School.
MySpace forums are public spaces. Parents, bosses, anyone, can log on and connect with other profiles. Despite the warnings from the creators of the site “not to post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to know,” many users don’t think twice when it comes to posting on the site.
“I should be studying right now, but instead I’m sending you a random comment. Talk to you after lunch tomorrow,” reads a comment from one Middle Township High School student to another.
“Jake is a jerk. We’ll get him back at Casey’s party on Friday. Like 50 people are going to be there. Her brother is buying beer for us,” reads another. 
A picture of an 18-year-old Wildwood Catholic student shows him tilting his head back for a shot of what he claims is Southern Comfort. Another 17-year-old student posted a picture of her posing with her friends. A game of beer pong and an open bottle of wine is visible in the background.
However, posts about alcohol and parties are not the only topic of conversation. Many students use the site to keep in touch with friends and family, organize study groups, discuss plans for college, and rate professors.
“I wouldn’t take that one course,” writes a college freshman to a Cape May Regional senior. “That professor does nothing but drone on for 3 hours every class and gives exams that are impossible. Try taking Reynolds. He really gets the class involved in discussion and your grades aren’t all based on exams.”
Another 16-year-old Wildwood High School student uses his profile to gain exposure for his band. A 17-year-old Middle Township student uses her profile to show off her eye at photography.
More students at those high schools admitted to underage drinking than to smoking cigarettes on their profile.
No phone numbers, addresses, or personal websites were visible on any of the profiles that were surveyed.
What’s available on a MySpace profile?
Each profile contains two standard parts: “About Me” and “Who I’d Like to Meet.” They can also contain sections about standard interests, such as music, television, books, and movies, as well as specific personal details, such as marital status, physical appearance, and income. Blogs are also available on a user’s profile.
Many people will choose to customize their MySpace by uploading images onto their site. One of the images can be chosen to be the “default image,” the image that will be seen on the profile’s main page and as the image that will appear to the side of the user’s name on comments, messages, etc.
There is also a count of the friends the user has. A total of eight friends, or the “Top 8,” are shown directly on the profile, with a link to a page, which lists all of the user’s friends. Below this is the “comments” section, wherein the user’s friends may leave comments about the user for all viewers to read.
What’s against MySpace’s rules?
According to the terms of use agreement on MySpace.com, a profile can not include any of the following: telephone numbers, street addresses, last names, and photographs containing nudity, or obscene, lewd, excessively violent, harassing, sexually explicit or otherwise objectionable matter.
The site is only available to those who are 14 years old or older. Membership will be terminated without warning, if the moderators believe that a user is less than 14 years of age.
Other user’s can report inappropriate content at any time to the site’s moderators.
Safety tips and tips for parents, along with a link to other Internet safety sites are also available on MySpace. 
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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