The Value of Relative Friends in a Virtual World Commentator John Moe takes on the word "friend," a big word with a shifting definition. His band, Chicken Starship, has a MySpace page. And among the people listed as their friends are Elvis Costello, The Dixie Chicks, and Lucinda Williams. John knows that They Might Be Giants won't drive him to the airport -- but their friendship has to count for something.

The Value of Relative Friends in a Virtual World

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Well now that Wendy's has made the terms big and small seem even more relative than they were before, commentator John Moe would like to take on another word with a shifting definition, friend.

JOHN MOE reporting:

Friendship is the most important thing in life. I think my friends the Dixie Chicks would agree with me. So would my friends Willie Nelson, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello. Am I a major wheeler-dealer in the record biz? No. But I sing in a band and we're on the insanely popular MySpace social network site, where bands and individuals create pages to promote their music, shows, ideas and, pretty much, selves.

One of the things you can do on MySpace is to invite people to be listed in the section of your page marked Friends. Also in my collection are Rob Zombie, Wilco, Anthrax, Ryan Adams and Motorhead. I know that doesn't really mean friendship, but it also sort of means friendship.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with rock musicians. I knew I had no musical talent so I would never get to join KISS or Fleetwood Mac or Iron Maiden, but maybe I could be pals with them. Go to the movies with Cheap Trick, grab some pizza with Blue Oyster Cult, roller-skate with ZZ Top. Eventually I realized that besides being musically inept, I was also not cool, not good-looking and not rich, casting into doubt the whole friendship thing. Early adulthood taught me that I had little business acumen, thus eliminating the band manager angle, the final nail in the coffin.

But somehow I managed to pry the coffin open. In my mid-20s, messing around with some friends, I inadvertently started a band. Strictly hobbyists, no talent necessary. We've been playing small clubs in Seattle for years now. A few months back, we built a MySpace page and I discovered other pages by real rock stars, each with a link saying Add to Friends. A couple of clicks later, you enter into a limbo stage featuring sentences like, currently awaiting approval from The Dixie Chicks.

But unlike regular life, in MySpace they always say yes. They always approve of you. They'll always be your friend, because then they'll have your contact to promote concerts and records. So more like a friend who sells Amway. I know this isn't friendship in the classical sense. If I'm arrested, Lucinda Williams won't bail me out. They Might Be Giants won't drive me to the airport. Still, under the friends section, there they are.

MySpace has been in the middle of some controversies lately with a lot of creeps hanging out there and doing creepy things. But for me, it has meant that technology can make my dream of rock star pals come true. Now if MySpace can just get the Dixie Chicks to come to my birthday party.

SIEGEL: You too can be friends with John Moe's band on MySpace. It's called Chicken Starship. He's also the author of a forthcoming book titled Conservatize Me.

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