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The Curse of Social Networking March 8, 2006 – 8:14 p.m. – Permalink

If half the MySpace population is teenage, that still leaves more than one MySpace account per person.

SAM WOLKEN,
SLYFORUM

I read a horrifying and sickening news article today from Yahoo News. In Costa Mesa, California a few days ago, a student is facing expulsion after posting several offensive threats against one of his classmates on his MySpace. Twenty other students were suspended for viewing the threat.

The state of social networking today is nauseating. Sexual predators stalk popular sites waiting for their chance to take advantage of users. People are free to privatize their pages and post threats against staff members and students at their school, as in the case of the Costa Mesa student.

Let us look into the actual unsafe nature of MySpace. Every profile by default contains sections called “Blurbs,” “About Me,” and “Who I’d Like to Meet.” They can also contain specific personal details, including location, marital status, orientation, physical appearance, and age.

One of the most surprising things I found about investigating MySpace was that it does not even count as a social network any longer, by the rule of 150. As Wikipedia states under its article regarding the topic:

“The so–called rule of 150 states that the size of a genuine social network is limited to about 150 members (sometimes called the Dunbar Number). The rule arises from cross–cultural studies in sociology and especially anthropology of the maximum size of a village (in modern parlance most reasonably understood as an ecovillage). It is theorized in evolutionary psychology that the number may be some kind of limit of average human ability to recognize members and track emotional facts about all members of a group. However, it may be due to economics and the need to track ‘free riders,’ as larger groups tend to more freely allow cheats and liars to prosper.”

Personally, I believe social networking is a curse and should be halted in its tracks before it envelops teenagers any further. Even locally, at Air Academy High School, several students were suspended after several incidents because of “bullying through MySpace.” During the months of January and February I began a MySpace to investigate how easy it was to display private information.

All profiles allow the usage of HTML and integrated CSS freely. I was able to set up a so–called “div overlay” with ease, which could include any or all personal information I withheld from the Internet. Also, it was possible to be able to add a friend with a single click of approval. Private messages could be sent to anybody.

There are excellent precautions MySpace users have taken to prevent abuse via the Internet, including changing the location (e.g. to Congo or Tanzania, as I have seen on several MySpaces) or privatizing a MySpace. Making a MySpace private does not prevent a user from seeing a photograph of oneself online.

The entire topic of the social networking controversy leads to new assumptions. What can be put on such a page? What allows for expulsion or suspension of a student?

As far as I have heard, at my middle school, if a single offensive remark is said on a social networking page regarding a staff member or student, that student is immediately suspended and is subject to expulsion. For example, if I were to call one of my teachers a very offensive name on this website, I could be suspended or expelled from Eagleview Middle School.

What is bad enough to constitute expulsion, though? Simply mentioning a teacher’s name or student’s name should not be enough to take action against somebody, particularly if the teacher’s or classmate’s name was mentioned prior to a compliment or encouragement.

So, then, what are we to do? Are we to condone social networking as it is and let it expand to seventy million users (as in the case of MySpace) and then to eighty million? Are we to let this continue?

For another intuitive look at social networking, you might wish to see the reprint of an article at Slyforum entitled “A Society of 58 Million” (original location) and the Yahoo News article I reference frequently throughout this article.

In other news I have been browsing Albino Blacksheep very often lately, and I wanted to include a sampling of my favorite animations and videos. All geeks will sympathize with “Geeks in Love” while “Experiment 04” will leave you wondering what happened. Meanwhile, “Mass” is a very depressing look at the Web today, and “Volte–Face” is simply indescribable. “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!” “Do You Like Waffles?” “The Fingertips Project” and “The 5th Avocado” are both creative and hilarious animations, and “Windows Noises” is simply amazing.