Lately I've been wrestling with some extreme boredom as my wife works nights, and like any modern-day geek I've turned to the interweb for salvation. I'm probably a bit late to the party but I signed up with the gi-normous community site MySpace a month or two back, joining the ranks of the approximately 27 million other hopelessly young and immature teenage morons and idiots who like to "pretty up" their profile pages with the gaudiest, ugliest graphics and sounds they can find in an ode to web design faux-pas circa 1996. Maybe I'm just getting old, but it's a site like this - with a median age of about 16, a median IQ of about 65 and a hopelessly small age distribution curve - that will eventually force me to admit that the future of our country is doomed.
Yes, it took me about five minutes to get utterly sick of this site. Now, it is true that MySpace has grown so popular that you can literally meet people from practically anywhere in the world, and there's something to be said for that. And once you venture off the beaten path and actually seek out those beyond our borders, you will meet more normal people than you'll ever find in the high schools or malls of America. The problem is these people, like me, seem to get sick of MySpace real fast, and once you start to build up a little circle of friends you'll likely find it disappearing just as quickly as the normals drop off from lack of interest. Unless you just fill up your friends' space with a bunch of random jerks in a vain attempt at being the "most popular on MySpace!" like most people do. MySpace boasts a huge number of members and just looking through the profile pages will confirm that, but dig a little deeper and consider how many of those people haven't logged on in months and the story is a little different.
It's also a site that anybody can join, so probably a large minority (if not a majority) of its members are someone other than who they say they are. Sure you're talking to that hot 18 year old with a picture of herself spreading wide? How naive can you be? Heck, I had Natalie Portman ask me to be her MySpace friend. Real? Possible, I guess... likely? No.
Now, as we all know, everything's better in Japan. After slugging it out in the ghetto of MySpace for a while, my wife sent me an invite to Mixi, the better, stronger, faster Japanese equivalent. Mixi is an invite-only service - sorry, my fellow dumbass Americans, if you want to join you'll just have to make a real Japanese friend somewhere. Most people on Mixi have their real friends as their Mixi friends for this reason. It's a nicer place, with more thoughtful people, and the age range is a bit wider. It doesn't technically have as many members as MySpace, but I've still managed twice as many profile views there as I ever got on MySpace, in half the time. Who knew?
Mixi does have English-only communities and it does have both westerners and English-speaking Japanese as members. So it's not inaccessible for a foreigner. It just takes an invite...
To sum up -
MySpace: big and stupid. Typically American.
Mixi: smaller but smarter and more fun. Just what you'd expect from the Japanese.
Update: This post has been getting a sizable (and growing) number of hits from people coming in through Google searches. That's great, but please don't ask me for a Mixi invite either in the comments here or by email. I'm not going to delete them or anything like that - I believe in free speech (mostly) - but I'm not going to give you an invite. Think about it - everybody on Mixi was invited by somebody, which means everybody on Mixi knows who on any given profile page was invited by that person. That means that, unlike MySpace, people with lists of random "friends", who may or may not be behaving well on the site, are viewed quite negatively by others on the site. Given that most of my Mixi friends are real-life friends (one of the benefits of an invite-only system), and that their friends are also real-life friends of mine, I am not interested in having a stigma attached to my Mixi profile.
So, while I can appreciate your interest in Mixi, and I might have even been responsible for stoking the fire a bit with this post, you'll have to find an invite elsewhere. Sorry.