Until this week, I had never visited MySpace.com, the trendy online meeting place for Generations X and Y.
This is something I've been proud of. One of my fellow Gen Xer friends (who stubbornly refuses to admit that it's time to grow up, at 25) maintains a MySpace account and tells me that I am a bitter old maid for scoffing at online meeting places. I believe MySpace (and sites like it) are really just digital altars to the self, where all things appealing to "INSERT YOUR NAME HERE" are worshipped like the pagan gods of old.
Perhaps that's an exaggeration.
But I am quite sure that MySpace promotes sexual promiscuity and over-the-counter drug use. Just like how Grand Theft Auto causes teens to injure themselves (and others), and Country Western music perpetuates the idea that it's OK to wear cowboy boots and spurs when you're not on a horse.
I have no statistics to back that up.
But the statistics I do have are even scarier.
And that's what provoked me to visit MySpace.com
At the regional economic forum Directions 2006 in Reno this Wednesday, speaker Perry Satterlee, president and chief operations officer of Clearwire wireless broadband, said MySpace has 48 million users. They are part of this so-called "MySpace Generation," which is composed of those tech-savvy tweens, teens and the twixters who "still feel young." That's a direct quote. I know many of them. And they all say the same thing.
Satterlee said MySpace is the No. 5 Web site in terms of people using it and the pages used.
I could not believe this ... but then I thought about it.
Satterlee said one in three teens have a credit card while in high school. They are growing up with wireless, Internet, cell phones, laptops and the iPod. Teen consumer spending is $175 billion a year.
Essentially, teens are richer than they've ever been, and this is growing, he said.
And their parents are, too. Teens have all this money to spend because their parents are supporting them. A part-time job can cover the cost of "keeping up with the juniors" if their parents can't.
Popular consumer goods are becoming more affordable. At Wal-Mart.com you can buy a desktop computer for $500. A Toshiba laptop for $1,000. A teen could put that on his/her credit card.
In August 2000, more than half of all American households had computers, that's 54 million households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of children aged 3 to 17 lived in a household with a computer in 2000, up from 55 percent in 1998. Thirty percent of all children used the Internet at home compared with 19 percent in 1998.
You'd think income would weigh heavily in this. Of those households surveyed who have computers and Internet in the home, 27,600 had an annual family income above $50,000. In comparison, 33,400 of those surveyed with both computers and Internet in the house brought in less than $50,000 a year.
Imagine the numbers in 2006.
Keeping this in mind, I'll focus back on MySpace.com.
The Web site isn't that impressive, even plain. I'm rather surprised tweens think it's so great without splashy pictures and impressive graphics. The key is the personalization.
In MySpace world you become the maker of your own universe, one that revolves around you and your friends. You post your photos, chat with friends and view crazy music videos shot by some guy in his basement lip syncing his own "Baby Got Back" lyrics.
So, experts say, teens are more tech savvy, but look at what they are focusing these skills on: themselves. The World Wide Web is an amazing tool for information and communication and this generation uses it like a single-lane road. Its motorists are the id, ego and superego. And their "circle of friends."
MySpace has proven to be a successful venture for media mogul Rupert Murdock. His Fox Interactive Media purchased Intermix Media (which operates MySpace and other community-oriented content Web sites) in 2005 for $580 million.
Murdock's purchase was brilliant because he bet on something that will not change: the American youth's self absorption.
I write this knowing that I won't get a whole lot of hate mail from this "MySpace Generation."
Young professionals, and certainly not teens, don't read the newspaper. Which was something else I was reminded about at the economic forum in Reno.
But we do have a Web site. Some may visit it. If they ever get off MySpace.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.