Last Tuesday, I went to MySpace.com. And I survived. I went to the once-enormously-popular-still-semi-functional-yet-so-2004 social networking site after I saw an old friend on the subway platform on my commute home from the law firm Weinrich, Abrams, Indroverned, and Granovetter LLC. She didn’t see me. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was her. I needed to check and the last place I remember having any interaction with her was on MySpace. Eight years ago, she typed words that haunted me since: “if I’m still single in 8 yrs and u are 2, u and I are gonna go on tonz of hot dates.” I was single, but was she? I had no idea what I was getting into but, I had to find GiNaBSBz83
I logged in as HeyDudeTv2 and entered a world that was anything but familiar. MySpace had changed. The menus had changed. The colors had changed. The layout was completely different. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened. I was used to things changing on the internet but this was beyond anything I had experienced. I remembered clunky boxes filled with unreadable descriptions of music, sounds appearing from seemingly nowhere as I scrambled up and down the page to find the pause button, .gif animations that were too numerous and seizure inducing to count, long lists of friends, favorite things, quotes, ramblings, ramblings, and ramblings. But now, there was hardly any rambling. Everything seemed too clear. A series of tiny blue birds sat on the screen protecting small chunks of concise, focused text. The acceptable user experience was disturbing.
I wouldn’t stay long, I decided. I came here for one thing: to see if GiNaBSBz83 lived in Washington DC. Surprisingly, her username was the same. I loaded her page. Everything had changed around her, but as soon as the images loaded, GiNaBSBz83′s profile picture looked exactly as I remembered it. She had two fingers in the air, her face turned awkwardly away from the camera, one eye significantly more open than the other, her hair died bright pink, and her teeth clenched together as if she had just said “what?” Adrenaline rushed through my body as I realized I was moments away from reconnecting with my long lost friend. The only problem was that the page was too familiar. It shouldn’t have been familiar. It should have been different.
She hadn’t updated her profile in eight years. She changed nothing while the entire structure of her profile had transformed. This was a snapshot of GiNaBSBz83 in 2004 and I wondered what had happened to her. She still had a list of friends, a list of favorite movies, and links to her favorite Geocities pages. It was like she had simply vanished and a shadow of her former self was imprinted in the internet. And then I saw it.
The last comment posted on her page was also in 2004. It read simply, “don’t click the ads,” written by JeNNiFr88. No one had commented since then. My brow sweat as I clicked through to JeNNiFr88′s page. My heart racing and fingers trembling, I scrolled to the bottom of the page. There it was. “Don’t click the ads” posted in 2004 by another MySpace user. I clicked more and more and more pages as panic began to overwhelm me. I began to realize that I had discovered something absolutely dreadful, horrifying, and pathetic. No one had been here for a very, very long time. MySpace was a post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with ghosts of its former self.
I hurried towards the top of the page to find a way to delete my account because I knew I could never come back. As I fumbled with the settings to remove my younger soul, I received a friend request. I stared into the screen, unable to process what had happened. Someone was here. Someone had found me. Someone else. I wasn’t alone. There was someone on MySpace. Curiosity took hold of me, and I realized that I might need to help someone escape with me. I accepted the request from XueiticPills4Free.
“Who are you?” I typed into the instant message box.
“Would you like to buy some prescription drugs at 40% off?” XueiticPills4Free replied.
“Now is not the time!” Confusion overcame me. “What are you doing here?”
“Would you buy them if they were 55% off? I have a link.”
“No, I don’t want prescription drugs. I want to know where everyone went.”
“How about if they are 75% off?”
“You aren’t listening to me! My friends, they’re all frozen in time!”
“How about if they are free?”
“No, I don’t want any prescription drugs. I want to know where GiNaBSBz83 went!”
“She’s gone. They’re all gone. You should go.”
“Anywhere. Some went to Facebook. Some went to Twitter. A few went outside.”
“What about you?”
“I have to stay. I’m needed here.”
“Don’t ask questions.”
“Go. Go, before it’s too late.”
Before I left, I turned to XueiticPills4Free. I knew I couldn’t leave her behind.
“Come with me.”
“It’s OK,” she typed. I felt the trepidation in her keystrokes. “I’m a grad student. I’m just doing research.”
“Thank you, XueiticPills4Free,” I replied.
“Don’t click on the ads,” she said.
“I won’t,” I answered.
I was exhausted, traumatized, and my eyes were bleeding. With whatever energy I had left, I scrolled to the top of the page and closed the window. I sat alone that Tuesday night wondering if I had actually seen GiNaBSBz83 on the subway platform earlier in the day and I realized that I wouldn’t know. I saw her ghost, possibly in two different places. I probably should’ve talked to her when I saw her on the subway platform. Or maybe she’s still on Friendster.
Illustration by Kyle Harter