Notes from a recent session interviewing teens about MySpace.
"So, the thing you do most on MySpace is check out profiles of people you don't know. Do you ever communicate with any of these people?" "Never!"
Breakdown of time spent on MySpace (figures are percentages, names are changed)
|Charlie (19yrs)||Lucy (18yrs)||Fred (18yrs)|
|Modifying own profile||5||10 or 15||5|
|Communicating with good friends||25 or 30||25||25|
|C-ting with people they know vaguely||15||10 or 15||10|
|Communicating with MySpace friends||0||0||10|
|Surfing profiles of known people||5||25||15|
|Surfing profiles of unknown people||45||25||35|
Attitude towards MySpace? People are slightly embarrassed/ guilty about spending time on MySpace. A few hours spent on MySpace is seen as wasted time. Someone might sarcastically joke when going home from pub, “I am going on MySpace now”, because its kind of a sad thing to do. Charlie feels he has kudos from having deleted his MySpace account.
Meet new people through MySpace? Very rare. Only Charlie met someone for real having first met them on MySpace, and that was something to do with music. Fred spends time communicating with MySpace-only friends, but could never imagine meeting them in the flesh.
Develop peripheral friendships through MySpace? This seems to be a way MySpace changes peoples’ offline lives. It’s possible to develop a friendship with someone you met briefly at a pub/club. Phoning would be too much. But you might become friends with them through communicating on MySpace.
How do users surf? Often/usually they spend time looking through friends’ networks of friends and then those peoples’ friends, with no interaction. Usually limit it to people in the same geographic area. So if they reach a profile of someone who lives far away, they will retrace their steps to return to profiles of local people. Mostly surfing seems to be about checking out how good-looking people are.
What’s the most important thing on someone’s profile? Definitely the photo.
Useful tools? You can save as ‘favorites’ profiles you like to look at (without the people who own those profiles being informed). Fred didn’t know this but was very excited on hearing about this tool. Also, they thought being able to see number of times a profile has been viewed would be a good feature.
How realistic are profiles? Users very selective about photos they use. People always significantly less good-looking in real life than on profile.
MySpace also used for? Charlie said the one thing he will miss is not being able to keep track of club nights and bands on MySpace. Lucy used MySpace a lot to check out clubs and pubs; what’s on, opening hours, entry price.
Attitudes towards businesses using MySpace for marketing? Not worried about it at all. No feeling of intrusion. Users often hear about things being marketed through ‘bulletin’ on MySpace homepage (e.g. X-men), but easy to ignore.
Use MySpace in 10 years time? Charlie said “I don’t have time to have a life and be on MySpace”. They indicated they only used it because they had a lot of time on their hands. None could imagine spending much time on a social networking site when they are 30.
Other social networks? Basically they just use MySpace. Charlie and Fred thought Bebo maybe for younger people. Lucy hadn’t heard of Bebo.
Emails enticing you to join social networking sites… Considered really annoying. Charlie said if he received such an email he will delete it straight away and make a point of not joining the site concerned and advised us, ‘Stay away from emailing people’.
Promotion of social networking sites in other ways? They were of the opinion that either a site would work organically, or not at all. Advertisements for a site would make no difference.
Use of MySpace forums and chat-rooms? None of 3 used these.