Got Your MySpace?

El Vaquero Staff Writer

In the hottest online trend among the college set, the number of students registered as attending GCC on MySpace is currently 2,135 and growing. But the popular new services have both pluses and minuses, according to users.

“I think MySpace is the best way to communicate with people far away and whom I haven’t seen in a long time because its cheaper and easier than to make a phone call,” said Aryan Khodabakhshian, 18, a criminal justice major.

MySpace is a networking service that allows members to view other users “profiles,” talk to others listed on MySpace , and network with each other by adding “friends.” Users can join the free social network that now connects to millions and offers free profiles, blog services, instant messaging and e-mail, group services, and online classifieds.

After signing up with the service a person sets up a profile. Profiles list stats such as names, ages, locations, and likes and dislikes. A MySpace member tells the cyber world about themselves and who they’d like to meet. Then there is the “friends” section, where users can list their top eight friends who also have MySpace profiles. The top eight are the fellow users one associates with. One can also list companies, networks, and schools.

The user can also easily upload pictures and show them to the world. Professor Mike Eberts said, “a student of mine loves Myspace because (he or she) can look at other users’ pictures.” Unfortunately, this is also one of the easiest paths to pitfalls associated with MySpace. Eberts claims that these problems include bullying and sexual predators. Some photos hosted by users push the boundaries as to what is acceptable. “I don’t have a problem with people over 18 posting those types of pictures. But those under 18 I have a problem with because they open themselves to sexual predators,” Alek Jouharyan said.

A new user visiting the main database of GCC’s registered students on MySpace would instantly notice some benefits. One can see that they can advertise and ask for roommates, textbooks, and apartments. One can rate a professor or class. At the same time a person can go to the message boards and post their opinion on a recent topic, or just say hello to their fellow GCC students and peers. Not only would they be reaching their current fellow students and peers but they could also contact the alumni of the school and keep in touch with valuable contacts for the future.

Some of the topics that are covered on the GCC message board are people telling each other about their spring semester classes, an announcement of an on-campus music club, a party hosted by a local fraternity, and people telling each other about their majors.

Slama, 20-years-old, who moderates the network on MySpace, claims that the most unusual topic that she has seen on the boards was a post in which someone distributed his phone number out to everyone for a birthday party. This could also be seen as a dangerous action and that the poster was feeling too secure about giving his number to many strangers.

While there are many perks there are also many drawbacks and negative aspects of the recent MySpace boom, some that could be damaging and deadly. The problems that are not exactly dangerous are network failures and slow processing speeds. True, a user can find just about any one they wish these days on MySpace, but this means that really just about anyone can find another user on MySpace. Some of whom are the type of people one would not want to associate with. MySpace has been a convenient tool for predators to make contacts using aliases to disguise their identities. The Redding Pilot reported that there was a sexual assault incident that involved a local teen and an adult from out of town. The two connected over the internet.

In connection with this the process of adding a friend has been a problem for many of the female students on campus. Vart Kiourkysian, 19, said “random creepy people can find you and hit on you.” Rose Umaana, also 19, a sociology major, feels that one of her problems with MySpace would be the people she doesn’t know adding her as a friend.

A cyber dating site, Wired Safety, offers some safety tips. The first suggestion offered by the site is to approach the person with caution and to not let one’s guard down. Treat it as if meeting a complete stranger. Most people, because of the cyber-dating boom, have a false sense of who the person they talk to online is. They don’t realize that it could be completely different when they meet that someone.

The site suggests saving correspondence to the person and to do frequent consistency checks on their story. It also suggests that along with bringing a friend on the first date, tell another friend where the date will be and whom the date is with. The site also recommends telling this person that in case of an emergency where e-mails exchanged with the date and contact with the date are located on the computer. This allows for another safety net for a person to fall back on if police need to track them down. Finally it suggests not accepting a ride home from the person on the first couple of dates.

Eberts believes that the idea behind MySpace, known as social networking, is most likely here to stay, but he can’t be certain that the top social networking site will be Myspace in the next 10 or so years. But he suggests that competitors will have to work extra hard to draw customers away from MySpace.