Should I go or should I stay?

I have a MySpace page. It’s not much, just a token entry on one of the big social networking sites.

Now here’s a problem: MySpace is run by religious bigots. They selectively censor atheist groups wholesale; this makes me rather dislike the place. Yesterday was International Delete Your MySpace Account Day as a protest — I didn’t participate because I didn’t find out about it until this morning, and now I face a dilemma. Should I remove even my nominal participation in MySpace, or should I keep my page up? If it stays up, it will definitely have something protesting the managerial abuses that are going on.

There’s something to be said for either alternative, but I’m lazy (and also crazy busy today), so I’ll put it to the readers of Pharyngula: shall we say no to MySpace and torch the Pharyngula webpage thereon, or shall I leave it up? Scorn them by participating in the mass shunning, or leave a one-fingered salute waving at them?

The New Humanist is running a poll on this very same issue — how should atheists respond to organizations that discriminate against us?


  1. George says

    I say stay, but only if you will be at least mildly active in promoting atheism. You’ll get booted anyway most likely.

  2. Pierre says

    Here’s an idea: leave the page there, make sure it’s clearly and unambiguously labeled as an atheist page (I haven’t seen it so maybe it’s already the case), put a note on it that more or less repeats the protests against MySpace’s actions, and then stop maintaining it (you have other things to do, after all). If they delete the page you gain two things:

    1) you didn’t have to go to the trouble of deleting it yourself and
    2) we have further evidence that they are religious bigots.

  3. Sven DiMilo says

    They’re not gonna care either way.
    My question: why have a MySpace page? I mean, if you have a rock band or are 14 years old, I can understand it, but does it help you to “network” with anyone you a) would want to and b) wouldn’t otherwise?

  4. says

    I say stay, but only because I believe that a cyber-squatter would take your ‘myspace’ identity otherwise.

    Personally, I hate myspace, always have – always will, but will keep my profile. Will adblock more aggressively now, though.

  5. T_U_T says

    don’t worry, you will be banned anyway. Because, I guess, the war against atheism moves to next phase. Direct censorship and discrimination

  6. Zeph says

    MySpace is such a joke. It’s an easy way to spy on the masses for the benefit of advertisers. People would whine if the advertisers downloaded crap on their computers (which they do anyways) to see what they’re up to, but call it a “social networking” website and people will line up to dump their personal info and habits on your doorstep. what a laugh.

  7. pough says

    I can’t tell if their name has become ironic or simply more appropriate.

    Anyways, I think you should keep it and clearly mark it as an atheist site (as per Pierre’s suggestion). Frankly, any MySpace page in existence is quite obviously a protest anyways, although it’s usually a protest against good taste.

  8. Dianne says

    Keep the page but add more clear information protesting the company’s policies and proclaiming your atheism. Repeat until you get banned. If you don’t get banned by the next International Delete Your Myspace Page day, dump it then. Or just dump it now if that’s all too much trouble.

  9. Richard Harris says

    I don’t know who these god-goobers are, but they seem to be just like many of their kind – they know what their god-thing wants, & think it wants them to act upon its behalf – like it was helpless. Which it is, because it doesn’t exist outside of their mixed-up minds.

    Anyway, thank you, PZ, for warning me off ‘MySpace’. I mean, in case I thought it was an astronomy site.

  10. says

    I can’t decide what to think about this. On the one hand, who really cares about MySpace? I only use Facebook, but to be honest that annoys me and I only stay on it to keep in the loop with people from university.
    But on the other hand, part of the Murdoch empire has decided it’s so in favour of fundamentalist Christianity that it will prevent users from having civilised online discussions about atheism. Disgraceful, and MySpace users should really make a stand.
    We’re running a poll about all this on the New Humanist blog – come over and vote. We’ve no plans to get bought out by Murdoch just yet, so you should be free to speak your mind too!

  11. says

    I don’t do much with the MySpace page anyway, but it does provide contacts to a different group of people. I also have a Twitter page that I do even less with (I really haven’t figured twitter out yet)…I don’t have a band, and I’m over 14, but I want to talk to people who are in bands and are under 14.

  12. Brian Mars says

    I say keep it. My myspace blog is all athiest rhetoric (and personal drama – its myspace after all). We can’t let the bigots run us off. I guess when /b/ is done with scientology, they can go after Tom.

  13. Amit Joshi says

    I say keep it, put up links to prominent atheist sites, but also put up praise for MySpace’s newfound commitment to content neutrality.

    Make it hurt them to delete your account. Neat, huh?

  14. says

    Delete your MySpace page! Why give them traffic? Talk about stuff on your own turf, not theirs. The idea of hosting your ideas, words and social network there, even as “protest,” as some have suggested, only serves to validate their online authority for many segments of the population.

  15. says

    I’m with Pierre @ #4. Keep the page labeled appropriately, stop maintaining it, and wait for it to be deleted. For an extra helping of fun, post a link with a brief explanation in the sidebar of this site to increase traffic to it, and so that when it gets deleted, it will be very obvious that *they* deleted it.

  16. Carlie says

    I’d say keep it and make it a visible protest. What good does it really do them whether or not you have a page? I would think that advertisers go by the numbers of daily users to gauge how much it’s worth, not how many people simply have profiles (and if they don’t, then they deserve to be fleeced).
    I have a myspace page because I have a lot of family and friends who aren’t quite “Facebook” people (it still has the aura of being school-based, whether that’s true anymore or not, and scares some away because of that). I’ll go this weekend and put up something about it, and see if it stays. That is, if I can remember how to edit stuff there.

  17. Andy James says

    Why should Atheists alway be the ones to run?

    Why should we give the religious free reign over such a domain?

    I say keep it, and continue to speak our voices of reason.

    Let the religious run from us for a change.

  18. Carlie says

    Ooo, following the links I found that I can put the big A on my Facebook page! Now I can test that and see if it gets any flak from the admins.

  19. says

    I had no idea this was going on. I used to belong to MySpace’s deleted Atheist/Agnostic group but quit it after it was deleted once and also, I was sick of the teenagers who would interrupt perfectly civil and interesting conversations with “dinsuars R not reel!” and “darwin admitted evolution was WRONG!”

    But I use Myspace every single day (with Mozilla Firefox Adblock, so I never see any ads), and I’m 37 years old . Virtually all of my friends use it (& some are older than me). I keep in touch with people I don’t see out and about socially anymore. Plus, I’ve gotten back in touch with old friends, schoolmates, and exes, some of whom I haven’t spoke with for 2 decades. I really love MySpace, but this whole anti-atheist crap really throws a wrench into things.

  20. JimC says

    They delete the atheist websites but allow all the gang members BS and, well, anything else.

  21. says

    I don’t think MySpace is all that bad, personally. I use it to connect to hundreds of fascinating avant-garde and experimental music labels, artists, and fans… and for a free tool, I think it has been surprisingly vital to our community. I’ve never heard of any of my atheist friends having difficulty keeping an account– but there have always been loads of glitches, errors, crashes, etc at MySpace. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “MySpace is against atheists” thing is BS, just like the “profile spy” rumors that pop up from time to time, claiming to be able to show you who has accessed your profile.

  22. bernarda says

    Put up two statements as an introduction. Richard Dawkin’s about the xian god and the second about MySpace’s censorship. Then see if they kick you off.

    If they don’t, invite some of the banned atheists to post on your site.

  23. Tulse says

    If you keep the page, MySpace still gets the ad revenue. The only protest they will understand is hitting them in their pocketbook. Dump the page.

  24. Eliza says

    Keeping your account boosts their numbers which entices advertisers, and loading their site increases the number of ad views, increasing their profits. I dunno about you guys, but I prefer to only support jerks I actually like.

    Where is MyScience? Someone please get on that so I can befriend sexy brains and click on ads for jewelry shaped like molecules and hand-knit cephalopods. :D

  25. bernarda says

    And of course you can have a theme song, The Clash “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

    Another version.

    “If I go there will be trouble; if I stay it will be double”.

  26. Quintana says

    The graphics on myspace accounts are terrible. It’s like they cut Master P loose with a tight budget and asked him to get creative. People should drop accounts on that fact alone, but given the predjudice involved here, I’d say find another networking site.

  27. Sparky says

    I’m all about tearing down the myspace page. I had the same problem, (I have a nominal page, and didn’t find out about it until this morning) Why waste quality content, no matter how nominal on such vile scoundrels.

  28. dusty59 says

    of the options I find the $/traffic arguement more compelling.
    I say can them.
    Plus #2’s suggestion!

  29. Carlie says

    bernarda, that was great. I can’t imagine how much time it took to make that second video, and now I have a list in my head of people I’d like to see get that treatment.

  30. says

    Aside from the censorship issues, leave myspace because it’s crap :-).

    I am so tired of all the flashing neon advertisements, and the ability for people to customize their home page with so much java and flash that my browser dies in desperation.

    Facebook is the place to be, and there are plenty of “alternative religion” groups to be found. Myspace seems to be for the highschool crowd now…and given their consistent performance problems and too much customize-ability, I don’t think people are going to flock to them as much any more.

    Another option is StumbleUpon – which is like social networking in your browser – it has all sorts of fun athiest/agnostic/whatever groups to keep you interested, and it really extends your “reach” into the internet.

  31. bernarda says

    Carlie, I was also impressed by the time it must have taken to make that video. The edits are so precise.

  32. Christianjb says

    Should I stay or should I go now?
    Should I stay or should I go now?
    If I go there will be trouble
    And if I stay it will be double
    So come on and let me know

    (The Clash)

  33. says

    You’ve got your own website, PZ, so the only thing a Myspace page gets you is a way for more people to find you. Many people use Myspace to network, and for that reason I set one up for myself a little while ago just to direct people to my website. That’s really the only thing it is useful for. I say, if it’s not getting you much traffic, or proving to be annoying to manage, dump it.

  34. says

    A think 200,000 sock puppet accounts sporting the red A, all with semi-plausible sounding identities ought to do it. Writing a random myspace page generator might even be fun! :)

    I am Billy Bob Cotton, age 14. I enjoy mountain biking and atheism with Britney Spears. Charles Darwin is my favorite punk band!

  35. Vitis01 says

    Don’t cut and run. I just turned my page into a link-fest for all the good atheist pages that are still out there.

    In yo face, MySpace!

  36. Raynfala says

    Delete? WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Everybody who wants to protest should leave their accounts intact.

    In fact, maybe people should upload some brand new pictures to their myspace pages. Pictures are nice, after all. Very pretty, in fact. High-resolution pictures are even prettier. Sure, they take up file space on myspace’s servers, which could tax the limits of their resources, but aren’t pretty pictures — big, pretty pictures — worth it?

    Big pictures uploaded to myspace by lots of people. And the best part is, the more pictures you upload, the prettier myspace becomes.

    So pretty over at myspace…

  37. JakeS says

    Got fed up with MySpace couple years ago (amateur pages full of graphics that load forever and eyebleeding color schemes, addbots disguised as pornstars filling up your friend requests, etc) and did not get around to deleting it. This morning, I found out about this crap and finally had an excuse to pull the plug…and by doing it in protest I had some impact. Sent messages to all the friends I knew from real life, regardless of their religion. Yank down pages, and let everyone know why.

  38. melissa says

    Please stay! I just added you as a friend! There are only about 5 atheists on the entire site at any given time and I just KNOW that’s wrong! Still so many people afraid to say it! Still wearing their ambivilance and disdain for religion close to their vest (or under it)! We gotta have a PRESENCE there! Read my blogs! Check out my videos!! If they censor me- I’ll be sending out bulletins and posting so much anti-religion propaganda Murdoch’s head will explode!

  39. Escuerd says

    Ah, this site you’re quoting is mistaken.

    MySpace did not delete the group. The moderator of the now deleted “Atheists and Agnostics Group” let his account get phished and for a couple of days someone was banning all the usual members before the group disappeared entirely.

    I imagine the person who stole the account did this, not MySpace. They didn’t seem to respond to any of the active members’ requests to restore it, though, unfortunately. I don’t know what’s happened since then, however.

  40. Kaite says

    Stay, but put up a post condemning their stance. If they don’t want your page, let them make the effort to take you off.

  41. Arnaud says

    It’s owned by Rupert Murdoch.
    Obviously, you should delete it! You don’t want to be a Murdoch-enabler, do you?

  42. tim says

    Seems to me, in debating a creationist on Christian radio, you’ve already answered this question as well.

    I’ve seen several essays by scientists weighing the ‘pros and cons’ of a public debate with a creationist. Surprisingly similar – a long list of obvious cons, a short lists of fuzzy pros, and then shzaaam – “I’m doing it anyway.” Leaves me feeling like I just read a Francis Collins explanation of why he’s a Christian.

    The Dem presidential candidates are soft on way too many issues, but I did admire them when they told FOX News to stick their debates up their ass. Also a proper place for MySpace.

  43. RamblinDude says

    Boy, am I disappointed to hear this. It’s getting harder and harder to not believe in invisible magical beings these days. But I say make them delete you. Make them do the discriminating. (Especially for a page as inoffensive as yours.)

    I have a page and I like it. I don’t get caught up in the frenetic friend exchanging, but I’ve discovered several musical talents that I didn’t know about before. Like ESTHERO and Badi Assad and lots of fine classical musicians like Amanda Cook and Maya Koch. There’s even a jazz guitarist that I found, Alessio Menconi, that I like a lot. (And I don’t even listen to jazz!)

    I make it clear that I’m an atheist, but there’s nothing militant or hateful about it. It’s mainly philisophical musings. Now, if they want to delete my page for that then screw em’, they’re definitely not an organization I want to be associated with. I’ll come here and rant and rave about it, and broadcast it to the world…and…and…well, I guess that’s about it. :-)

    Imagine, being afraid of little ol’ us.

    Big. Damn. Insane asylum.

  44. Will Von Wizzlepig says

    When your enemy lets you into their house, do you leave as a demonstration of rejection and defiance, or stay as a show of rejection and defiance?

    It’s myspace. How seriously can you take anything associated with it?

    “I deleted my myspace account in protest of something!”

    I might point out- anything cool online can be bought by lame jerks and ruined. Pat Condell’s videos debut through his myspace blog and page… they’re not working too hard at their censorship…

  45. says

    I posted a..umm…announcement to all my friends (they have a word for these that I’m blanking on), telling them that I would be leaving myspace in a week and inviting them to facebook. There are people I know on myspace that aren’t on facebook and who I really only talk to via myspace, but fuckit, if the bastards don’t like atheists then I’ll take my profit making eyeballs elsewhere, and hopefully take a couple of people with me.

  46. says

    If this snopes out, there is one main issue, as I see it, and that is discrimination. If they censor JWs, Mexicans, left-handers, or gay circus performers, then they deserve a finger-wagging.

  47. says

    Call the ACLU. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbad discrimination, among other things, against religious beliefs for any company engaged in interstate commerce. Certainly MySpace is such a company.

    Ka-Ching! Big fines, nasty publicity.

  48. says

    I say stay and protest. In fact, make a gigantic protest and see how far you can go and then when/if your account is deleted, publicize the hell out of it. I think I added you a week or so ago. I just saw you are now in my list and I am eventually going to rearrange my top list into more science relevant people. My page is a music page and I will still continue to promote music, but since I am reading more science than I am playing music now, my priorities are changing.

  49. Helioprogenus says

    I say stay and be a voice of reason. I have a myspace page and I use it to do the good atheist work of trying to illuminate irrational religious behavior. Sure, I’ve managed to offend friends, relatives, and often, my girlfriend, but if they’re going to believe in irrational things, place their faith and emotions on bullshit, then it’s their fault.

    And yes, I’ve clearly marked myself as an atheist. You can find the page by looking for helio progenus, and see what one can do to fight the idiots.

  50. says

    I say, keep it. They are trying to silence us, so if you shut it down you are giving them exactly what they are looking for.

    Which is something they do not deserve.

  51. says

    As I stated in my linked post, I deleted my account. I vacillated between wanting to delete the account and using it to stage a protest. In the end, I decided that the most efficient way for me to send a message was by hitting them in the wallet (meager though it may be in my case)– less users equals less ad revenue and data mining fodder. Unlike most forums for discussing atheism and free-thinking, this one directly benefits an odious organization merely by using it. That’s enough reason for me to leave.

  52. Stephen Llewellyn says

    I just deleted my MySpace account – which I have actually never used. I then saw all of these comments and my first thought was “Perhaps I should have left my account active and marked as an atheiest site or something.” Then I thought “Naaah. Fuck ’em!” and I feel much better. Now if there were some concerted movement to show our disapproval to MySpace I would be very much on-board.

  53. Cj says

    I’m quitting, right freakin’ now. Sure, it’s a private site, but dammit it’s supposedly about social networking. I’ve post a bulletin telling my friends they’ve got seven days to get my current contact info…as I wrote in my bulletin, “(I)f you’d like to make a statement about censorship based on beliefs in an environment that is supposed to be about “social networking”, I’d encourage you to do the same. Remember, today athiests, tomorrow you!”

  54. says

    Hm, i don’t think i can give up MySpace. I’d never get laid without it. Instead i’ll just cover my profile with a ton of atheist stuff.

  55. Cj says

    I’m quitting, right freakin’ now. Sure, it’s a private site, but dammit it’s supposedly about social networking. I’ve post a bulletin telling my friends they’ve got seven days to get my current contact info…as I wrote in my bulletin, “(I)f you’d like to make a statement about censorship based on beliefs in an environment that is supposed to be about “social networking”, I’d encourage you to do the same. Remember, today athiests, tomorrow you!”

  56. says

    The more i think about this the more i think it was just the result of some low-level site administrator not any of the higher ups on the site. I’m willing to bet money that the group will be restored within a few days. The sooner the higher-ups hear about it the sooner it’ll be fixed. So everyone start making noise.

  57. says

    If they’re really trying to excise references to atheism and agnosticism, they’re not doing a good job: I just checked, and I can choose those (or scientologist or wiccan or other) in the “religion” section….

  58. says

    I’m on the keep your MySpace account side of the fence, make sure you ‘atheist it up big time’ and send the details of MySpace’s bigotry/censorship/discrimination to all your MySpace friends.

    It might all be just a big mistake, but, as Bryan has said, MySpace seem to be dragging their heels fixing the problem. If enough of us complain directly, someone might get the message. I’ve have done just that and through my blog am encouraging others to do the same, even if you are not a MySpace member.

  59. G. Tingey says

    “MySpace” is owned and run by the vile Rupert Murdoch, of News Corporation – who also own Fox News in the US and papers like the”Sun” (you DON’T want to know) and believe it or not, the London “Times”.

    Protests to News Corporation and or Murdoch, personally.
    Nothing else will do.

  60. Richard says

    I messaged my (admittedly small number of) contacts telling them why, then cancelled my account. Told them why very clearly. Moved to facebook. Told my myspace contacts, told myspace I told them.

    Effect this will have? None whatsoever. But it still felt like the right thing to do.

  61. says

    You know, I deleted my MySpace page a couple of weeks ago just because I wasn’t using the darn thing and it just seemed like a useless time suck. But now this makes me want to sign up again, and sign up under 100 different aliases, and form new atheist and agnostic groups in protest. I think everyone ought to just keep at it so that we can’t be ignored. I’m really shocked and appalled that this is going on.

  62. SabrinaW says

    I will be keeping my MySpace page (mostly for contact with my students), and will post a complaint on this issue. If MySpace does delete me, that lends support to the hypothesis that they are a bunch of Bible-thumping bigots.

    Also, regarding the ads issue – some ads will adapt to keywords in your profile, so if you list “atheism”, “agnosticism”, and “blasphemy” in your interests and in other places, you’ll get more ads to sellers of material related to it. So we could actually induce more interaction with vendors religious bigots may not care for.

  63. says

    Since you seem to taking a straw poll, my vote is:
    – Keep the page
    – Add a bunch of in-yer-face atheist prose
    – Add a block of text ripping the MySpace PTB for being a bunch of censorious bigots (or at least, kow-towing to such).
    – Dare them to take it down. If they do, post to that effect here.

  64. dwarf zebu says

    All the cool kids are on Facebook these days anyway.

    Uncool kids need love, too!

    They deserve a place to to be able to be in contact with PZ, as well.

  65. Steve_C says

    I saw we get them to delete our atheist pages themselves….
    make them do it rather than a boycott. I agree with Eamon.


  66. Romeo Echo says

    Quit MySpace, delete your profile. Absolute boycott is the only way to go. I don’t do business with bigots, period. I also won’t get a carwash at the place that puts the stupid christian fish symbol up on their sign. Must mean FOR CHRISTIANS ONLY so screw ’em.

  67. John Phillips, FCD says

    What’s myspace? All I know about it is that Rupert Murdoch owns it which in itself is reason enough to avoid it.

  68. says

    I have a MySpace page strictly for the three or four friends who aren’t on Facebook, and for the regional bands I like. Mainly so I can get their bulletins and see when they might be playing in my area. I’m keeping my page (and urging you to do the same), but I’m going to edit it to basically contain a protest and little else.

  69. AnInGe says

    In my state, it is illegal for a place of business to discriminate against or deny service to a patron based on that patrons ethnic background, religion, or place of origin. (Whether that place of business charges for their services is irrelevant.) I’d contact the ACLU and start a lawsuit.

  70. Fred Norman says

    Group may have been restored, so comment may be moot, but STAY, don’t leave. If you leave, MySpace remains, so you’ve gained little. Stay and use YourSpace to fight them, a losing battle, sure, and probably a short losing battle, but a battle nevertheless.

  71. says

    I would flip them a tentacle and way goodbye. Since MySpace was bought by the corporate lunatics that also own Fox News, its managment has become a cesspool.

    Run away, far away…

  72. Andy says

    As someone in a previous post already mentioned, the information in this article is incorrect. MySpace did NOT delete the group. It was deleted by hackers. I hate MySpace as much as anybody, but let’s not misrepresent the facts. There are still plenty of “real” reasons to be against MySpace; let’s focus on those. Here is the explanation by the group moderator:

    “I had a profile with 3000+ friends, and was mod of the atheist and agnostic group here. It took 3 years of my time to build; had 35000 members and actually won an award from Harvard University (for us perhaps being the largest group of humanists in one place in the world).
    Last week a hacker got my password; deleted all my profile friends and code; changed my group name to jesus is love; deleted all our good posts; banned lots of regular users (which is permanent on myspace groups).
    Then he started systematically deleting all group members.
    At that point, given that I tried clearing chaches / changing passwords, etc., etc., I took the somewhat extreme act of deleting my profile.
    This stopped the hacker from having access to the group. I estimate he deleted 400 people before he was stopped.”