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There’s much ado about MySpace

by Daniel Bayer

There’ve been lot of articles in the media lately, including this publication, about parents worried over their children’s use of MySpace, the phenomenally popular online community that allows users to post profiles, pictures, write blogs, etc. It seems some of the young’uns have been using raunchy language, posting racy photos of themselves and talking with potential pedophiles. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare since the heyday of satanic heavy metal.

What? You don’t remember Satanic heavy metal? Way back in the ’80s, the guardians of public morality had their panties in a twist over the antics of such bands as WASP (which stood for ‘“We Are Satan’s People’” or ‘“We Are Scary Posers,’” take your pick), Twisted Sister, The Mentors and other such future VH1 ‘“Where Are They Now’” footnotes. Listening to such music would lead to ritual sacrifice, suicide and really embarrassing haircuts, they said. Most of the awkward post-pubescent boys I knew, myself included, hoped that listening to and playing such music would merely lead to ‘— gasp! ‘— meeting girls, and not Old Splitfoot himself, both of which were complete mysteries to us. Which didn’t stop us, of course, from pretending to be experts on the subjects. Every time Ozzy Osbourne, head of the Satanic Church, oops, I mean future reality TV star, came within 50 miles of my hometown of Sanford, NC, the hallways of my middle school would be filled the next day with graphic ‘— and completely untrue ‘— stories of how he had stomped a puppy to death, swallowed a glass full of the audience’s spit, or blown up a goat on stage. Toss in all the kids who claimed to have read Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible (as if you could’ve found a copy in Sanford in those pre-amazon.com days), and it was clear we were a generation racing headlong down the Highway to Hell. Yep, Satanic heavy metal was the greatest threat to the youth of this nation since Elvis’s ‘“jungle rhythms’” or John Lennon killing Jesus.

We had to work a lot harder at outraging our elders, though, than kids today (you knew this was coming, didn’t ya?). Nowadays you can find pornography with the click of a mouse (not that I would know anything about that personally, you see. I just read about it in Time magazine). When I was a wee lad, we had to track down our dads’ stashes of girlie magazines, sneak them out of the house, and get them back before he found out. Inevitably, the subterfuge would be discovered (sometimes we didn’t return them with all the pages, um, intact) and he would hide them in a different location, and the whole cycle would begin again. If we were really lucky, one of us might have a bachelor uncle who had satellite TV with the Playboy channel, and we could score some videos.

In addition to going to great lengths to find pornography, we raided our parents’ liquor cabinets and took the contents on Boy Scout camping trips, buried a friend’s deceased pet rat in a public cemetery (in broad daylight and the middle of town, no less), and attempted to kill the pre-Napster record industry with home taping. There were other scarier and far more regrettable things too, but even without the internet’s cutting-edge technology we managed to put more than a few grey hairs on our parents’ heads. It’s a thin, almost invisible line between an experience that you’ll later look back at and laugh about, and one that ends in sudden tragedy and a lifetime of regret. Maybe we were luckier or smarter, but most of my contemporaries walked into more-or-less respectable adulthood relatively unscathed, physically if not always emotionally.

In addition to having had a bad haircut in the ’80s, I also have a MySpace page, and so does my band, Boxcar Bertha. It’s an excellent way to book shows and communicate with friends and fans. In the main, it probably doesn’t make adolescence any more or less dangerous than it ever was, even in the days of Elvis, Ozzy or John Lennon. The temptations, thrills and threats of being young and believing you’ll live forever will always be there, and so will parents’ loving attempts to protect their children from them.

To comment on this story, e-mail Daniel Bayer at spudkat@earthlink.net.

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