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What Happened to the Social in Social Networking?

I was reading an interesting article today from the Chicago Tribune titled “21st Century Girlscouts Marketing With MySpace.” The article took a look at a Myspace profile featuring a cookie… the Girlscouts’ thin mint cookie to be exact, and it asked a good question.

“Could this possibly be the moment traceable on a pop-culture timeline when social-networking sites “jumped the shark?” Is it all downhill for these services, already littered with advertising interests, when a sugary treat sold by smiling girls in sashes enters the fray?

Frankly, I think it is. I can’t act like I’m totally innocent here. I use MySpace for personal reasons, and also for marketing an indie music webzine and the SixFigureWriters project. In my defense though, I don’t participate in the traditionally “spammy” MySpace marketing tactics, or with many blatant advertisements. I don’t use bots to add masses of “friends,” and I certainly don’t buy bulletins or messages from those with large friends lists. Generally, people find me and request information on those sites, or the resources I offer. So technically, yes, I’m a Myspace marketer. But I’m a Myspace marketer with ethics.

On the other side of the fence, I do run a personal profile to network with friends, family, and a bunch of local bands that I’ve worked with. Myspace used to be fun. Now, I spend more time clearing spam messages and spam profile friend requests from my account than I actually spend enjoying any “social networking.” Myspace is starting to feel like a great big advertising board, although I can’t speak for other social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook.

Relevant advertising is one thing. But it wouldn’t honestly surprise me to see commercial Myspace profiles overtake personal profiles in the foreseeable future. Even with their recent cracking down, Myspace just can’t seem to keep up with the spammy breed of webmaster marketers out there (I’d hope they’re the minority, but they sure know how to leech off of everything entertaining or even remotely trendy on the Web, don’t they?).

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