Screenshot courtesy of the author.
Your best friend had one. Your older sister had one. Most of the bands clogging up your iTunes library had one. Even enduring teen icon Effy Stonem had a Myspace page — her Top 8 placements hinting at a preference for Cook over Freddie (we knew it!). By the end of the 00s, just about everyone you ever met was on Myspace, backcombing and spraying the shit out of their hair for that all-important upside-down profile pic.
Myspace was most closely associated with the alt scene, functioning as a heady, glitter-encrusted playground where emos, scene queens, greebos and goths alike would mingle, but its appeal straddled subculture lines, so much so that the site had 100 million users at its peak in 2009. Eventually, the platform dwindled in popularity, joining the proverbial black parade after a failed attempt to keep up with Facebook left it confused and soulless. But now in 2021, the social media climate is in turmoil — and a new site strives to change that by bringing back the vibe, aesthetic and community feel of old school Myspace. SpaceHey is a brand new social networking experience that focuses heavily on two aspects missing from most modern platforms: personalisation and privacy. Coded entirely by 18-year-old An from Germany, the site looks almost identical to how Myspace did in its heyday — complete with blogs, bulletins, an old school IM function and, most importantly, the ability to use HTML and CSS to fully customise your profile with cute layouts, pictures and music. “I was only a few years old when Myspace was popular,” An explains over email. “I never came to use Myspace. However, thanks to older friends and the internet, I heard a lot about it. I came to the conclusion that you can't find something like this nowadays, where everyone can be this creative.” Aiming to fix this problem, An used his excess time during the pandemic to transform his vision into reality, sifting through archived webpages, screenshots and videos to ensure the site was as authentic as possible.
It seems to have paid off. SpaceHey officially launched on the 29th of November 2020, and since then around 55,000 users have joined worldwide. (An can’t tell me exact demographics — he aims wherever possible to minimise the data he collects from users for a more private social media experience.) One of them is 32-year-old poet T.J., who used Myspace to share his writing back in the 00s. “I randomly stumbled onto SpaceHey via Twitter,” he tells me. “They were promoting some new ‘Myspace incarnate’ and, as someone who loves nostalgia, I was immediately interested. I hate Facebook and have been looking for a reason to, if not completely delete it, then certainly limit my time on there. Once I got here and saw the original Myspace vibe, I fell in love.” He admits that the “shiny toy feeling” of SpaceHey is wearing off as his usage becomes less obsessive, but it’s still his browser homepage and he logs on multiple times a day. Self-described retired scene queen Kelly Chaos is another millennial who has migrated to SpaceHey. She was big on Myspace, at one point amassing over 800k friends before her page was hacked. “Myspace was a huge part of my life between 2004 and 2010,” she tells me. “I was in high school when it started and it was a way for me to escape the bullying I endured as a teenager. I spent all my lunches in the library on Myspace.”
After hearing about SpaceHey from a friend, Kelly was quick to sign up, thinking the site might give her a serotonin boost during the pandemic. But, like T.J., she quickly became an active user and has already racked up over 1400 friends, some of whom are pictured on her profile holding up ‘Kelly Chaos’ signs — proving more than just functional aspects of Myspace culture have made it over to SpaceHey. Adding people you didn’t know irl was prolific on Myspace but began to wane as digital spaces became a projection of reality, rather than a space for escapism. With the most problematic keyboard warriors fast becoming the same people we share awkward family dinners with, it’s no surprise that SpaceHey’s users are desperate to connect with like-minded strangers across the globe. “Most social media platforms these days are incredibly toxic,” Kelly says. “In the three weeks I've been on SpaceHey I’ve experienced more love and support from people than I have in the last five years on all of my social media platforms combined. It’s definitely refreshing.”T.J. is in agreement. “It's like a place of refuge, especially for us scene kids that grew up but still hold on to those memories of listening to MCR on our iPod Shuffles.”One group particularly keen to use SpaceHey as a tool to expand their network are musicians. Myspace was synonymous with discovering new music, and this symbiotic relationship has never quite been replicated elsewhere online (with perhaps the more recent exception of TikTok). SpaceHey serves as a fresh start — a blank CD onto which bands can burn their identity.
Natty, 28, is a vocalist in the screamo band Cassus. Though he was too shy to make a Myspace account himself, he used the site to listen to music, and its influence courses through his own work today — especially new solo project Tir. “I’m hoping to connect with likeminded people and grow my audience as an artist now in the same way bands like Underoath and Silverstein did then,” he says. “There’s a strong streak of nostalgia in this project, but also a lot of modern inspiration such as the whole ‘emo trap’ scene like Lil Peep and Nothing,Nowhere, so I feel like this new version of an old site fits the similar duality of my own work perfectly.”Both Kelly and Natty highlight how much the alt community is thriving on SpaceHey, and this is cross-generational. Part of the platform’s appeal can be accredited to the growth of new subdivisions of emo and the wider emo revival — encompassing not only music, but also fashion and TikTok trends. Blend this with general Y2K nostalgia under the 20-year cycle, plus the influx of new, distinct aesthetics from e-girls to cottagecore, and you have the recipe for why Gen Z yearn for the Myspace experience they missed the first time around. Mona, who is 17 and from Nova Scotia, joined SpaceHey out of curiosity for what the Old Internet was like, as well as to write poetry and promote their music. They agree that nostalgia plays a part in their generation’s interest in SpaceHey.
“Nostalgia has constantly been at the forefront of trends for young people. In the 2010s people were obsessed with the 80s, and now there are new teens obsessed with new cultures and trends of the Internet,” they explain.
Other young people are interested in coding, like 18-year-old Jess. Her parents (!!!) had Myspace, and she heard about SpaceHey from TikTok. Since joining, she’s been watching YouTube tutorials to learn how to perfect her profile. “I love the idea of making your profile fit your personality and being able to meet new people with similar interests. Being able to learn how to code has to be my favourite part. I thought it was difficult but once you get the hang of it, the results are amazing!”The act of using social media as a space to showcase your personality and talk about your interests, rather than doomscroll through news, is particularly alluring during the pandemic, and it’s perhaps for this reason that Myspace isn’t the only 2000s site being resurrected. Geocities already has a spiritual successor in Neocities, and now Bebo (arguably the Blur to Myspace’s Oasis) is also getting a reboot, with founder Michael Birch telling BBC News that he wants the new site to focus more on real-time interactions and less on the spread of misinformation.
It’s clear that our nostalgia and longing for the Old Internet isn’t solely aesthetic-based — with Kelly, Natty and T.J. all desperate to return to a less corporate, less political social atmosphere.
“All the mainstream social media sites of the last decade are a lot more ‘square’ in my opinion,” Natty says “I guess Myspace was kind of an ‘internet wild west’ where the users had way more control over their profiles, and big corporations had a lot less influence on the platform compared to Facebook and Instagram with their constant ads.”T.J. agrees and is keen to highlight the oppressive nature of modern platforms. “I think most people are disenchanted with Facebook because it's a shady site that monopolises a lot of social media and has oppressive practices of targeting sex workers and allowing racism to occur unchecked, while punishing those who speak out against it.”When we speak, An insists that SpaceHey is more than just a Myspace clone, and this is clear from his behaviour. His active participation in the community extends beyond adding each new user in an ode to Myspace Tom. Not only does An respond to users’ complaints and queries on Twitter, but he’s also not afraid of banning anyone who threatens to bring hate speech and harassment to SpaceHey, including Neo-Nazis and those who are gender critical. It’s a move that’s very much appreciated by the community. “I just want to give a huge shout out to An and thank him for everything he has done. For someone who wasn't old enough to really know how special Myspace was to people like me, he is going to become a hero to many of us,” Kelly says. Despite this positivity, many users’ are still doubtful that SpaceHey will make a lasting impression on the social media landscape. Is a site where you have to Log On and Off, which doesn’t and likely won’t ever have an app, viable in 2021? Is our understanding of what social media is so detached from how it once was that these back to basics sites are likely to fail as fads or even morph into the very sites we’re running away from?“If we're being honest, Facebook started out the same way: a project by a teenager and grew into this megalomaniacal cesspool. Who knows if that's on the cards for SpaceHey as well?” T.J. questions. Maybe SpaceHey will continue to thrive, taking centre stage as the new, beating heart of the Old Internet, or perhaps it exists merely as an empty carcass of how things used to be. Either way, I guess that’s pretty emo.@laurahday