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Business - Written by on Monday, June 25, 2007 14:48 - 1 Comment

Denis Hancock
MySpace, Facebook, and American Class Divisions

As the battle between MySpace and Facebook for social networking supremacy rages on, it’s starting to take an interesting shape – that is, at least according to Danah Boyd, who in this blog essay argues that MySpace and Facebook are new representations of the class divide in American youth. The entire post is well worth the read, but the key point is made in Boyd’s attempt to delineate what we see on social network sites in stereotypical, descriptive terms meant to evoke an image (i.e. don’t interpret what follows too literally):

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.

Of course, one could quite easily argue (and Boyd notes) that this division can at least partially be explained by the history of the two sites – since Facebook started out limited to college students, it was kind of hard for kids that don’t go to college to get on there and start poking each other. Now that Facebook has opened up to everyone, preferences could change, which Boyd is and will be watching with great interest.

Another interesting point she made was that a month ago the military in the U.S. banned MySpace, but not Facebook – and Boyd notes that typically (tied to the discussion above and the class divide) soldiers are/were on MySpace, and officers are/were on Facebook.

Such subjects are difficult to talk about and often make people uneasy, and Boyd notes she was “reticent about writing about this dynamic” due to a lack of appropriate language to describe what she is seeing, and worries that it could be misinterpreted… but it’s certainly an interesting issue to keep tabs on. For other papers and thoughts from Boyd, see here, or visit her blog at http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/.

1 Comment

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Don Tapscott
Jun 26, 2007 0:12

I love reading something that never occurred to me. Danah boyd’s piece came completely out of the blue. I’ll start following her work.

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