A while back I overhead two homeless men having a row over a choice spot away from the wind. "This was always my space," one yelled. "No man, it's my space now," the other one replied. A few young, well-dressed people walked by and giggled. "MySpace" as a phrase has a totally different connotation to those who go often online, for it evokes the posh virtual neighborhood where real estate is still plentiful and cheap.

But it is exactly the relationship between MySpace and "my space" that I've been thinking about of late, living here in downtown San Francisco.

The problem is that for the first time in human history, there are more people living in urban areas than rural, and cities have grown like amoeba into megacities -- so crowded that they have become virtual countries with complex ecosystems unto themselves. Tokyo leads the pack with 31 million residents. Seoul has 23 million, followed by New York and Mumbai and Mexico City.

No wonder fewer adults are having children and more and more are spending their time online as if to use the virtual space as a substitute for the shrinking physical space they're in.

The Harris Poll reported recently that Americans 18 and older spent an average of 13 hours a week online, excluding time spent checking e-mail. More are spending time on social networking sites than ever before. And China this year has surpassed the U.S. as the No. 1 country with the number of people having access to the Internet.

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Andrew Lam is the author of East Eats West: Writing In Two Hemispheres.