Once upon a time, one of my favorite internet playgrounds was last.fm. As social networking sites go, it was one in only the loosest sense of the term. It was kind of a match made in heaven for me because it married my love of music with measurable listening statistics as well as a way to look at what other people are listening to. Patterned after myspace in that you could add "friends" (most of whom you add and then never speak to again), it reminded me of that line from The Breakfast Club when Brian is talking to Bender about being in the physics club and Bender replies "So it's sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?"
I joined last.fm way back in 2004 when in it was still Audioscrobbler and had about 1/10th the bells and whistles it has now. It didn't take me long to find some like-minded people who listened to some of the same stuff I did. A lot of them ended up being in the U.K. (which is where I think a lot of the user base is as it's based out of London) which was even cooler. For the longest time, it was the first place I surfed to in the morning after Gmail. I made a lot of online friends and it seemed like my shoutbox was always in use. But somewhere along the line, the social aspect of it just wore off. I'm not sure when it happened, although I can kind of pinpoint it to late 2007. A lot of it was me and how a lot of my online interaction switched from that site to interaction through this blog - it was around that time that Paul linked to me and I managed to meet quite a few cool people because of that. And ultimately, I found that interaction a lot more satisfying than random people I didn't know and had no contact with apart from last.fm.
I feel like Facebook (and to a lesser extent, Twitter) has kind of replaced last.fm in many ways - at least in the social networking aspect. Honestly, Facebook is probably the best use of social networking that I have seen yet, although I feel like it is just fraught with pitfalls, especially as the lines between our online presence and our real life (especially our work life) blur. Last.fm will never be able to compete with them as far as being a social network. While I have really lost my interest in those aspects of last.fm, I still love the fact that it collects data about my listening habits. I love knowing that Debbie Harry's "Two Times Blue" is my most listened to song or that I've listened to Casey Stratton 3,403 times, despite numerous iTunes fails and a complete crash of my operating system in December of last year, all resulting in resets of my play counts. The longer I've been on last.fm, the more stagnant my overall charts have become, although certain events have pushed certain artists up the chart rapidly, the most recent example being the twin Dolly Parton concerts. Because of them, she's now pretty solidly my third most-listened-to artist.
I stopped subscribing to last.fm a while back, and now, when I really think about it, it's kind of nice to go there and find it so quiet. It's almost as if it's come full circle to 2004, when all I used it for was to see what I was listening to. As the classic Sesame Street song goes, the ball goes up, the ball goes down, the ball keeps going round and round.