Jonathan Weinberg writes… According to MySpace, virtual friends are replacing real-life mates, with more people than ever using the Internet to socialise and find love. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they!
But interestingly, research by the social network has found they are also using the sites to “lose their virginity” with three per cent of under 24s questioned for the poll saying they’d paired up with a ‘friend’ for that purpose.
Well, with all that poking going on in cyberspace, are you surprised! It’s heartening too, it’d be worse if under 24s were only ‘doing it’ virtually. Mind you, that does leave another 97 per cent in that age range that obviously didn’t need a social network for it, perhaps they’re too busy doing quizzes and tagging pictures to bother with all that.
The figure comes from a report by MySpace into the growing amount of time Brits spend on sites like theirs, Facebook and Bebo. It reckons nearly half of 18-24 year olds now prefer to spend 15 minutes of spare time surfing these places rather than watching TV, reading, talking on their mobile, or playing computer games.
Life is changing, there’s no doubt about that. We communicate far more online now and I don’t see that as a bad thing. In the same way people of my generation, I’m 30, are attached to the mobile phones that arrived during their formative teenage years, under 18s now are going to be tied to portable email devices of the future – faster and more blinged up Sidekicks – and applications on their handsets like Vodafone’s social network tie-up giving instant access to the big three.
Travis Katz, managing director of MySpace International, said: “While it will always be a great way to communicate with friends, the site has evolved into the centre of people’s online and offline lives. It is now a collaborative and creative hub that allows people to keep up-to-date with, comment on, and define the wider cultural scene.”
What I did find interesting from the report was a new generation of so-called ‘Culturpreneurs’ that are said to be springing up. It is thought 2.9m people regularly making money by selling their own designer clothes, jewellery or home-made magazines on the sites.
These include 20-year-old Paul Griffiths who receives up to 500 friend requests a day and now has more than 62,000 buddies, and in under a year has shifted more than 10,000 of his Babycakes T-shirts. Paul said: “This year we are going to install a webcam in our office to allow people to watch the design and production of the clothes. Internet stars are the new rock stars.”
This guy should be on TV’s Apprentice show, not the lame brains they have on there who have no idea about running a company and making money.
Nationally, the figures reveal Scots are the most dedicated networkers spending 23 hours a week surfing, closely followed by those in East Anglia who log on for 22 hours.
But when it comes to choosing new virtual friends, it seems what we all knew is in fact right – first impressions are key with 35 per cent of those asked saying they judged a potential pal on looks alone, with 21 per cent trusting them if they have mutual mates in common and nine per cent accepting them into their circle if they’d be a useful business contact.
I think I’m in the one per cent minority who just adds anyone I’ve ever come into contact with in order to have more virtual pals than my real friends.
And if you believe this, then good luck to you but the report also identified 10 new trends for 2008 including a growing band of do-gooders called Superheroes Anonymous, made up of people who give themselves super hero aliases and dress in costume to fight injustice like Anglegrinderman who now has his own MySpace page and goes round Kent and London cutting clamps off cars that have been ticketed.
Jonathan Weinberg is Tech Digest’s resident grump and anti-hero, who is now off to buy a cape and set himself up as TechnoMoaningMan.