Myspace: Friend of Foe?

Enough with the alarmist stories about Myspace! Just the other night I saw a teaser for a local news broadcast (can’t remember which one) which implied that Myspace was the devil because bad people might use it for bad purposes. (I’m assuming pedophilia, but I didn’t watch the show.)

First, let me be clear: Any asshole who uses the Internet to stalk someone, viciously hurt someone, lure an underage person into having sex or other illicit activity or bully another person, deserves to be punished. We have laws about these things for just that reason. And parents should definitely be monitoring what their kids are doing on the Internet. But not every person on the Internet or, or even Myspace for that matter, is that kind of asshole.

Look, I bet predators ride the monorail, too. Does that mean that the monorail is bad? (Well, perhaps that’s a bad example considering the laundry list of problems with our monorail system.) The point is that anytime you have millions of people using a system, some assholes are going to try and exploit it. It’s the same with Myspace. (And full disclosure: I have a Myspace page but I am not an asshole.)

This is just a couple of months after KVBC, Channel 3 had an expose about how some teachers in the Clark County School District have Myspace pages. Gasp! And sometimes those teachers actually try to use those pages to be more accessible to students and help them with their homework. The horror! Gosh, in my day all I got was the teacher’s home number to call when I needed help.

If anything stories like that prove that our society is changing quickly as communication is better facilitated by modes like the Internet and cell phone cameras. True, some of the teachers were just out of college and had made the bad choice of leaving their Myspace pages unedited when they went into the work force (a couple of sites had photos of them drinking and one had a veiled reference to pot use), but that speaks more about the changing times than of bad teachers.

Yes. We should know better by now. People should watch what they post or put on the Internet. But then again, do we really have to take something like Myspace so seriously?

And now there’s a new story about how a Myspace page can ruin someone without their realizing it. Today on Broadsheet there’s the story of 27-year-old Stacey Snyder who’s getting a teaching degree at Millersville University. Because she had posted a photo of herself as a “drunken pirate” on her Myspace page (she was 25 when it was taken), the university decided to award her a degree in English rather than an education degree. (Hey! Why’s it got to be English?)

I like what Broadsheeter Catherine Price has to say on the subject:

OK, fine. If you’re trying to be a schoolteacher or otherwise work with children professionally, it’s probably not a good idea to post a picture of yourself under the caption “Drunken Pirate” anywhere — not even on your own refrigerator. But should you be denied your degree over it?

I’d argue no. First of all, as the site’s name suggests, most MySpace pages are not designed to be reflections of people’s professional lives. (Somehow, “” just didn’t take off.) Obviously, that’s where the danger lies — Snyder, for example, thought of her MySpace page as personal, but anyone with an Internet browser could find it. That’s why you have to be careful about what you post. But it’s not as if Snyder was sending in her drunken-pirate pic with her résumé.

And second, I don’t quite buy the idea that this is an endorsement of underage drinking. Our society is full of images of people and alcohol. But more important, Snyder herself was well over the drinking age when the photo was taken (it was shot in 2005). As far as I can tell, she’s not doing PowerPoint presentations for fifth graders of herself as a drunken pirate. (And if we continue with this logic, wouldn’t the picture mean that she is also endorsing underage pirating?)

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