In Tales of the Early Internet, Mashable explores online life through 2007 — back before social media and the smartphone changed everything.
I’m not sure what triggered my journey. A nagging nostalgia, I suppose. Affection for an internet long gone. A part of my life I hardly remember. A certain bored curiosity that comes with life in quarantine.
I wanted to access my old Myspace.
The internet is a central part of my life now, even more than most. I make a living writing on the internet, about the internet. It fascinates me that Myspace could all but disappear from the daily habits of the perpetually online. What happens when a site that was once ubiquitous — the first stop on the internet for many — falls out of favor in a flash, leaving the bones of our old pages behind? The internet is alive and ever-changing, but this relic meant so much to me, a late-20s person barreling toward 30. Beyond AIM, Myspace was the center of my generation’s online universe at the time. We fretted over our Top 8, stressed over the perfect song, tried and failed to look cool in photos. You can get a good sense of who I am in 2020 via my Twitter account, my writing, my website, and countless other places online. I hoped my Myspace could remind me who I was back before iPhones were a thing.
But I remembered nothing about my Myspace page at the beginning of this journey. Username? Nope. Top 8? No way. Password? LOL. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my email address was back then.
I struggled finding my old Myspace page even though I’m an advanced googler. I can usually muster up the keywords that’ll help me find what I’m looking for. Simple searches that should’ve worked, like “Myspace + Tim Marcin,” were useless. All of my current usernames turned up nothing. A tool my boss suggested turned up nada. I thought my profile was fully gone.
Then, in a bit of wild irony…my first breakthrough came from Facebook, the Myspace murderer itself. I pretty much only use Facebook for its Memories feature these days. I’m a nostalgic creature. It’s funny to surf through old statuses and conversations, basically from the start of high school through college. Anyway, in a very old Facebook convo of some sort, someone called me “Tmar.” That used to be my dumb middle school nickname. (T for Tim, my first name and Mar for my last name, Marcin. It was not a complicated nickname.)
It hit me! I used Tmar as a username for nearly everything back in the day. From there it was just a guessing game. Just Tmar? Nope. Tmar16 — the number of my favorite soccer player — nope. Eventually, I found it: Tmar19. There it was. There I was. The profile was undoubtedly me, pictured in a high school soccer game. I look like a freshman? My eyes are closed, I’m ramming into an opponent, heading a ball. The memories were immediate. I think I played with that guy on a travel team once? Mike something? Maybe?
It was a trip to see a thing I thought was forever lost.
And then I hit another wall. I could see that image but nothing else. My profile was restricted. A new issue to solve. I tried to sign-in. I now knew Tmar19 was my username, but what was my password? My memory has never been that great and trying to remember a password from roughly a decade ago — yikes. I tried a few different passwords I thought might be what I used back then. No dice.
I tried the “forgot my password” route, but the recovery process relied on email. I had no idea what email address was connected to my Myspace. It definitely wasn’t any email I use nowadays, that much was certain. Onto the next challenge.
After some wrong guesses, the correct email address was, duh, [email protected] Sweet! This could be an easy fix. I went to AOL to try to sign-in and, nope, it was gone. I got this message that told me the old email had been axed due to inactivity.
All I could think to do was try every combo that could maybe, possibly be the password to my Myspace. I tried every last thing I could think of over the course of four days. I was rejected time and again. Shit.
I gave up for a bit, and then, I emailed Myspace, not hoping for much. That same day — that very same day! — they got back to me. Sure, we can help, just fill out this form. All I needed and some basic info like my Myspace username, display name, email address connected to the account, birthday, and zip code connected to the account.
My long journey — what I thought might be an impossible one— was over. Getting into my Myspace was so easy I felt dumb. After a simple password reset and connecting a different email address, I had Myspace again. 2020 was 2005, baby.
For a quick primer on how to recover your classic Myspace page, I’d suggest first checking out this FAQ page. But my steps were basically this:
Try forgot password option
If email is lost, guess password
Try hundreds of different passwords, fail miserably
When you’re tired of hitting brick walls, email Myspace and hope they can help
Fill out this form (My unique link had a ticket number for service, so it may help to email before filling it out…but probably just skip ahead to this form.)
The result, well, was kind of…boring, at least at first. My profile photo was the only picture attached to my account. I couldn’t find my Top 8. Half the links were broken, images were error messages. There were zero old posts. There was no song. There was no special design to my page beyond what Myspace auto-generated.
I clicked through the navigation bar of my profile. Photos, portfolio, and mixes all gave me nothing.
I revisited Myspace the next day. Sure, I had no real profile left, but some of my connections remained, 69 of them. I poked around. Most of the usernames were jumbled, some pictures were missing, but I could tell who everyone was.
It was like going back in time. These friends, these people — most of whom I hadn’t thought about in ages — were frozen in a digital Pompeii. Their internet presences had long since roamed to buzzier online pastures: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, hell, even LinkedIn. It felt like going through a vault, seeing these people when they were roughly 13 to 16 years old. Most are now double that age. Our online images are ethereal and fluid; it felt like thumbing skin we all shed.
It was a wonderful reminder of an internet that once was, when Myspace attracted more users than Google. I’m so jaded by the 2020 internet — which brims with misinformation, harassment, and abuse — that it was nice to wander around a less advanced, but certainly more fun, shell of the internet. It was a reminder of how it could be a joy to be online in the early 2000s.
Even now, it was addictive to go to a friend’s husk of a Myspace page, then click out to someone I just kind-of, sort-of knew. Reflecting back, I could see how Facebook and Instagram took over the world. It was as if we all collectively understood at some point that the internet is about performance — wait, if other people are stalking pages like I stalk pages…oh no, my page better be cool.
That perspective had yet to fully gel when I first used Myspace, though. I mean, look at this username of an old friend:
So pure. Julie was her friend, so her username is about how much she loves her. No puns. No three-level-deep, irony-poisoned joke. No thought given to (rolls eyes) branding. It’s sweet. I’m not going to blow up anyone’s spot by posting pictures, but I loved seeing junior high couples, perpetually together long after obvious breakups.
God, those pictures. Photos had no standards yet. The internet guidebook we all seemed to memorize by osmosis had yet to crystallize. In my old Myspace, I could see certain people had figured out the angles that would dominate social for years to come. Others, well, had not.
Everything was grainy. Most photos were set in kiddish bedrooms or dingy basements, tucked away from parents. The lighting seemed to be emanating from a ’70s lamp turned on its side. Without a drip of irony, one old classmate had a mirror selfie with a flat-brim hat and comically massive sunglasses. Another friend, let’s call her Jane, has a profile picture with one of my longtime best friends, whom we’ll call Angela. They’re sitting next to one another, smiling, Jane’s arm draped over Angela’s shoulders. In the bottom right of the photo there’s a little orange date. Remember that? That means Jane must have taken this picture, printed it, scanned it, then made it her Myspace profile image. What a world. The photo was taken on June 23, but the year is cropped out. Safe to say it was quite some time ago.
But it wasn’t all happy nostalgia. I also stumbled onto a kid who died young. In his profile pic, he’s lying down, hat backwards, eyes trained off-camera. “Shit,” was about all I could say. I don’t know the full circumstances of his death, but for a moment I just looked at that picture. In it, he’s quite young, unchanged; it was well before tragedy had struck. It felt different than stumbling across a person who’s passed on Facebook. On Facebook, the deceased person is frozen in time, but the rest of the site has moved on. It’s a sad milepost on a modern platform. On Myspace, we’re all equally preserved. Everything is the past. Yet I knew this poor kid is gone. I could see the future. It was a different kind of sadness, seeing him in his youth on a profile he’d long abandoned.
Retrieving my Myspace wasn’t what I’d hoped. I didn’t find a trove of old photos, emo posts, or even what song used to be on my profile. (I cannot remember what it was but feel certain it was deeply embarrassing.) It was more a personal reminder of how my world used to look, how myself and my friends treated the internet more than a decade ago.
Digging through my old connections and those old profiles, endlessly clicking to a different person, felt like I was flipping through a bare-bones yearbook. It was pleasant but stark; my mind had to fill in the gaps. It was like driving through your hometown, windows down, all light breeze and warm air. Most things haven’t changed, it looks nice, but you don’t get out of the car.
After a while I took another glance at my own profile. A little more familiar with how my broken Myspace worked, I ran my cursor over where my Top 8 should’ve been. And holy hell, there it was. The images were all broken and the error messages took forever to load. At first, it was impossible to see, but when I hovered, I could see the usernames. Only three of eight profiles remained. My brother was one. Another was a guy who remains a best friend to this day. The third was an old friend from middle school.
I haven’t seen him in forever. We grew apart. Nothing happened but inertia. We were on different paths going different ways.
I thought maybe I should call him. After all, we used to be good friends. Just scrolling over his username, for a moment, I remembered that connection. But that was a long time ago. I didn’t call. Where would I even begin?