E-networking: Internet offers new ways to connect to people

Lucas Jackson sends a message to a friend using his MySpace account. Jackson has nearly 46,000 “friends” connected to him through the site and he belongs to 72 groups, including a fan club he created for himself as a joke. (Staff photo: Kevin Wilson)

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

On the surface, it’s meant as a networking tool via the Internet. For others, it’s anything from a storage medium to a daily addiction to a running joke.

The thing in question is MySpace, an online site that allows people to create an account and display other accounts that connect to them. The site is celebrating its second birthday tonight with a concert at Dodger Stadium.

Nearly 1,000 miles away, people across Clovis and Portales are using the site to connect with old friends, find new ones and do a multitude of other activities as diverse as the millions who have posted a profile in the last 24 months.

“It’s a novelty, but it’s grown in such a capacity,” said Tod Work, who moderates a group called the Portales and Clovis Crew on MySpace. “Every time I go into the computer lab, somebody’s writing a message. I’ve seen people who write constantly, (who are) consistently on the thing.”

Not so long ago, Work was part of a much different crew in the Seattle area. He decided to attend college at Eastern New Mexico University in January.

“I came down here with a friend of mine,” said Work, who also attends classes at Clovis Community College. “We didn’t know anybody here. It took a couple months because you have to get used to the pace of life. You go through a little cultural shock.”

The shock was lessened because back in December, a friend badgered him into creating a MySpace account to stay in touch.

“Prior to coming down here, I signed up for an account,” Work said. “Once I got down here and went into the computer lab, people started talking about their MySpace accounts.”

The campus of ENMU isn’t the only one with MySpace members. When a member signs up, they can enter schools they have attended and companies they’ve worked for. At New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, the site has helped freshman Adrianna Stratton stay in touch with her classmates at Portales High School.

Stratton said she checks her site at least once a day, and usually uses the site to send comments to her friends instead of using minutes on her cell phone.

“It’s really easier to get online and leave a little comment,” said Stratton, who has nearly 100 friends on her account. First-time users start with one friend, the MySpace creator known as “Tom.” From there, they can request people add them as friends, and vice versa.

Some have a few friends, some have a lot and some treat it as a popularity contest with friend lists in the thousands. Work has 70 friends, an average-sized number, and he’s fine with that.

“It’s just one avenue for me to keep in contact with people I want to keep in contact with,” Work said. “Since I am in school, people come and go constantly. Typically, the girls have more friends than the guys. Whatever suits you is fine with me.”

To help people network locally, Work created the group for people in the Clovis-Portales area because he knew of so many people in the area with accounts and no common forum. Work started the group at the beginning of March, and it now boasts more than 330 members simply through word of mouth.

Later on, he applied and was approved as the moderator for Eastern New Mexico University. A moderator is responsible for making sure members follow the site’s terms and conditions, but Work said it hasn’t required any extra effort on his part.

Work’s not the only group moderator in the area. ENMU junior Lucas Jackson, who belongs to 72 groups and moderates three — including a running joke called the Lucas Jackson Fan Club.

“One day I was bored and decided to have a fan club,” Jackson said of the group with 97 members. “I didn’t think anybody was going to join it, so that was funny.”

Some would accuse Jackson’s friend list of being a joke because of its sheer size. Jackson has nearly 46,000 online friends. Some would insist that he’s in some juvenile popularity contest, but he said it’s all about the networking.

“You never know where you’re going to go, or when you’re going to be there,” Jackson said. “When you go somewhere, you already know people and you can call them up.”

The ways to network via the Internet may add new folds all the time, and some other site may come along with different features than MySpace. In any case, MySpace and similar sites probably aren’t going anywhere.

“People are fairly computer literate, and it’s become a cornerstone of their networking ability,” Work said. “It’s becoming so embedded and popular that even in a small community such as this, it’s going to keep growing for a while.”

Other networking sites available via the Internet. Different sites have free and paid features.
• Friendster: People organized by names, schools and hometowns. Friendster boasts more than 21 million members.

• Facebook: Mainly for colleges, but is now adding high schools to its directory as well.

• Blogger.com: Also known as Blogspot. Owned by Google.

• Xanga: Mainly used for weblogs. Similar to Blogger.com