I first found this article earlier this morning, but just now have had time to read it. The piece is by Danah Boyd and is titled Viewing American Class Divisions Through MySpace and Facebook. It’s a pretty interesting piece, and I encourage you to read it. Personally, I don’t feel like I necessarily learned anything new, per se, but it was definitely a good piece. Her basic premise is that the “higher” socio-economic class teens go to Facebook, and the “lower” ones are on MySpace. To this, I say, “Well duh.” The interesting part is to see this being said by something that has spent over six months talking to teens around the country and logging thousands of hours online looking at social networking sites. My opinion of these sites are basically based on a few minutes of surfing, and talking to a handful of people. Yet, her conclusion mirrors mine. One of the interesting tidbits she has is a good summary.
The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to
Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and
going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are
primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking
forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens,
“burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer
kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity
paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to
get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into
the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a
band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially
ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.
While I don’t think I’d necessarily call the kids on Facebook “goodie two shoes,” and she does go on to say she’s seen more debauchery on Facebook than MySpace, I think that the point is accurate.
It is very interesting to look at the development of the different social networks, and where they are now. When Friendster first came along, I got my hands on an invite and created my profile. After a few months of being one of two in my network, I started to realize that no one was getting on there.
I avoided MySpace for a long time because I never had a high opinion of it. The ugliness was just too much to make me want to be associated with it. When I finally did create a profile, I immediately replaced the default theme with one that was much cleaner and wrote about how much I hated the site. I even gave links to examples of horrible profiles, and why MySpace should be outlawed. I’ve since erased everything on my account, and have blocked the MySpace domain. Many of the people I found on MySpace were people that I knew from high school who did not go to college, and with whom I wanted no association because they were morons.
Facebook was a very different story. I was one of the people pushing to get my school added, and once it was I was the 8th person from it to sign up. Upon joining, I already had about two dozens friends there, and this was when there still weren’t that many schools. Trying to convince my school colleagues to sign up was a bit harder, though, since when they thought of social networks they thought of MySpace. Now, though, my school has thousands of people on Facebook.
I think that what it comes down to is who got on there first. As Danah mentions, Facebook was founded in the Ivy League schools. It makes sense that it is going to attract the upper educated crowd because likes attract likes. By the same principle, the urban kids that were in bands on MySpace are going to attract their friends.