If you were born in the early ’90s, you probably have fond memories of building your own virtual kingdom on MySpace. If you were born just a few years later, you probably regret missing the boat. This, alas, has been my experience. A member of the cursed “Zillennial” generation, I spent my childhood looking over my cool cousin’s shoulder as she customized her page, proving herself a veritable queen of the World Wide Web with every click. Day upon day, I fantasized about having a Top 8 and selecting the perfect song for my profile… yet by the time I turned 13, the social network was all but extinct. Frowning in my rhinestone-studded headband (which, naturally, called attention to a cute side pony), I resigned myself to poking friends on Facebook and liking image macros on Instagram, but a MySpace-sized hole remained in my heart. I thought I’d never fill it until earlier this week, when a Vice article about a new online craze called SpaceHey caught my eye.
SpaceHey.com presents itself as MySpace’s twenty-first century reincarnation, giving users free reign to broadcast their thoughts via blogs, slide into potential pals’ IMs, and even go ham with HTML. One might expect the site to be the brainchild of a nostalgic millennial, but it was actually coded by a German 18-year-old named An. As An was still in elementary school at the peak of the website’s popularity (2005-2008), he never had the chance to try it out for himself. Yet the buzz he heard from older friends and the Internet was enough to inspire him to recreate its glory. SpaceHey went live in November; as of this article’s writing, it has over 80,000 users.
With stats like that, how could I not be intrigued? I decided to give SpaceHey a spin.
DAY ONE: 3, 2, 1, LIFTOFF
Go to the SpaceHey homepage, and you’ll find a vision straight out of the 2000s. The interface is distinctly old school, with simplistic fonts and lots of hyperlinks. Only a post under the heading “SpaceHey Announcements”—“Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask”—serves as a reminder that you haven’t actually traveled back in time.
The registration process was easy-peasy. I entered my middle school email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and my ancient Poptropica password into a “Signup” box; the combination felt auspicious. I was asked for a display name—I typed in “Britt,” as many SpaceHey users go by their first names only. Then I had hacked into the mainframe, baby.
My first order of business was to play around with my profile. SpaceHey prompts you to fill out “about me” and “who I’d like to meet” sections; you can also type in a status and mood to let people know what you’re doing and feeling. A sidebar offers a space to enter your “interests”: “General,” “Music,” “Movies,” “Television,” “Books,” and “Heroes.” Filling it out, I realized I hadn’t taken the time to compile my “favorites” in ages. I was brought back to scribbling in the sparkly pink notebook I owned as a child, where I kept track of everything from my most beloved stuffed animals to my top TV shows. There was no limit to how much I could list; in fact, the site’s design seems to encourage users to share as much info about themselves as possible so that they can reach out to people with common interests. If “look at me” is Instagram’s refrain and “listen to me” is Twitter’s, “talk to me” is totally SpaceHey’s.
Keeping in mind SpaceHey’s slogan—“a space for friends”—my next step was to find some virtual pals. Normally, when I join a new social media platform, I begin by friending or following people I know in real life—but since none of my “irls” have hopped on the SpaceHey train yet, I had to engage in the age-old Internet practice of talking to strangers. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to do so on the site—there’s a “Browse” tab that allows you to scroll through all of the site’s users. Once you click on someone’s profile, you can see their friends and click on their profiles, and so on. SpaceHey’s emphasis on broadcasting your personality makes it super simple to track down people who share your favorite bands, hobbies, or eye for style. I sent one user a friend request because she was also an Aquarius English major named Britt (small world!); I reached out to another because of our shared love for cult classic The Crow, and another just because I Iiked her colorful layout.
The denizens of SpaceHey are an interesting bunch. Most of them are in their 20s; many vaguely adhere to updated versions of the emo/scene aesthetics that were popular during the OG MySpace era, or at least have fun indulging in those aesthetics online. Sure, their side parts aren’t as extreme, and their makeup looks often feature prominent highlighter—but the colored hair, dark lipsticks, “Haii”s, and “Xx”s of those golden days are all here. Many users state in their bios that they’ve customized their pages with reference to the bands, movies, and trends they loved in their teenage years. Yet it wouldn’t be accurate to call the platform an act of collective roleplay—I saw users talking about 100 gecs, The Mandalorian, and TikTok, among other decidedly post-2010 topics.
The more I sought out interaction with other SpaceHey users, the more SpaceHey users flocked to me. By the time I was done with my friend-seeking spree, I had a bevy of requests on my homepage. I accepted them, feeling all the countercultural glee of a teen taking her first steps into Hot Topic. Then I changed my status to “dreaming” and logged off for the night.
DAY TWO: I BECOME A SPACE CADET
When I woke up and checked my phone, my finger didn’t gravitate toward iMessage or Gmail. SpaceHey was my destination of choice.
I accepted a few friend requests, pleasantly surprised to see how many users had been active throughout the night. Then I decided to check out SpaceHey’s other features. In addition to the aforementioned “Browse” tab, there’s a “Search” tab so you can look for specific users. “Messages” takes you to the site’s instant messaging function (you can chat with any of your friends), while “Layouts” lets you browse profile templates (in order to activate them, you have to copy and paste a string of code). There’s a blog function that lets you share your thoughts with the entire SpaceHey-verse. You can also post “bulletins”—announcements sent to all of your friends, which they can view and comment on for ten days. When I checked my friends’ bulletins, I was surprised by how widely the content varied—I saw everything from a music video announcement to an update about a friend affected by the Texas power outage to photos from a thrift store haul.
Next, I navigated to the forums, where users who want to connect with the SpaceHey community more widely can post to broad categories like “Dreams and the Supernatural,” “Movies, TV, Celebrities,” and “News and Politics.” Despite the site’s thousands of users, the forums still feel relatively intimate, with most categories having only a few dozen threads. Yet the threads that do exist are active—especially in the “Quiz/Survey” section, where the good folks of SpaceHey try to break the ice by asking and answering the kinds of goofy questions you might have digitally passed around in 8th grade. (One gem I uncovered: a “Hot or Not” survey from 2009, complete with items like “Paris Hilton,” “tight jeans on boys,” and “Criss Angel.”) Other tabs include “Music Charts,” which displays the most popular songs on iTunes at the moment (I’ll admit that I half expected to see the likes of 3OH!3 and Cobra Starship when I clicked on it), and “Invites,” which lets you summon real-world friends to SpaceHey via other social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
When I was done with my self-guided tour, I scrolled through my list of friends and re-examined their profiles, many of which were decked out with customized cursors, patterned wallpapers, and GIFs galore. I had taken the first step towards the shores of connection; it was time to dive into the water. I sent out IMs, left comments, replied to bulletins. I might have even filled out a quiz or two (did you know my “dream vacation spot” is Iceland?).
DAY THREE: INTERGALACTIC CONTACT
In the morning, I saw that my shouts into the void had been returned. Soon, I was telling a 28-year-old from Alabama about my trip to Joshua Tree, bonding with a 25-year-old from New Zealand about our mutual love of horror, and exchanging book recommendations with an 18-year-old from Canada. These strangers were every bit as excited to chat as I was. Talking to them, it was clear that SpaceHey’s users don’t come to the site for clout, but to look for community—and it seems like they’re finding it.
An has touched on something special with this project. At this point, SpaceHey is more than just a novelty for the nostalgia-crazed set—it’s putting the “social” back in social media. At a time when influencers have taken over TikTok, Instagram recently added a “shopping” tab, and Mark Zuckerberg is getting more Zuckerberg by the day, few social media platforms feel like places where you can go to hang out with friends—or even “feel like places” at all. SpaceHey shifts the focus back onto conversations between users, without the power dynamic of celebrity or the politics of creepy CEO overlords.
SpaceHey is still unfinished. Some of the sections are under construction: when you use the IM function, you’ll see a disclaimer indicating that it’s in the beta phase (i.e., An and co. are in the process of detecting bugs), and clicking on the “Groups” tab will lead you to a placeholder animation of early Internet icon Nyan Cat. Yet the site doesn’t seem like a skeleton at all. Instead, losing yourself in the sea of My Chemical Romance references and Hello Kitty backgrounds, you get the sense that you’re watching something innovative and exciting unfold from its earliest stages.
Should you make a SpaceHey account? Absolutely; you should’ve made one yesterday. Just don’t anticipate using it to keep track of people you know or to gain a following. SpaceHey—at least, at this stage—is largely about reaching out to the friends you haven’t met yet. The site is built upon intimate interpersonal interactions, so you’ll have the best experience if you’re outgoing and open minded.
Oh, and now that you’re clued in… go ahead and add me at spacehey.com/profile?id=84295 😉 rawr XD