My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

Over the last six months, i’ve noticed an increasing number of press articles about how high school teens are leaving MySpace for Facebook. That’s only partially true. There is indeed a change taking place, but it’s not a shift so much as a fragmentation. Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Which go where gets kinda sticky, because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate this division for months. I have not yet succeeded. So, instead, I decided to write a blog essay addressing what I’m seeing. I suspect that this will be received with criticism, but my hope is that the readers who encounter this essay might be able to help me think through this. In other words, I want feedback on this piece.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

What I lay out in this essay is rather disconcerting. Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made.

Please check out this essay and share your thoughts in the comments.

Update: I wrote a response to the critiques concerning this essay. My hope is that this will help clarify various issues people raised.

Update: I take this topic up again in Chapter 5 of my dissertation. If you are looking for data to back up this argument, check that out.

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365 comments to viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

  • As always, danah, completely fascinating and a very useful contribution to emerging knowledge, despite the disparagements of the quants in the audience.

    I’m also fascinated by the classism being demonstrated in the methodological critiques (and the complete cluelessness of “big bad editor” in his comments about what seems to me to be more like a grounded theory memo). 90 interviews in a qualitative, ethnographic study is a huge sample (let alone the volume of your profile analyses). The domination of the positivist paradigm, and the infiltration of deterministic methods into social sciences (what a colleague of mine calls “physics envy”) has created yet another hegemonic discourse in the academy. Consequently, researchers like you (among many others) see their work and methods trivialized and marginalized. Ironically, it is positivism that has become less able to adequately describe and account for the complexities of a massively interconnected world.

  • Thank you,

    It is an interesting look inside America. However, with the teasing out of a class distinction, I cannot help to think how the purchase of myspace by News Corporation plays into it. News Corporation owns and operates a large number of tabloid papers in Australia which are aimed squarely at the working/battler, lower-middle classes in Australian suburbia, for example the Herald-Sun. Its primary competitor is the small-l liberal broadsheets in Melbourne and Sydney. Newspapers such as The Age have generally been the media outlet for the more affluent, tertiary/college educated and left-leaning population.

    Extrapolating the nature of class through media and the Murdoch press/media empire to always target the most profitable (in aggregate) sectors of the economy, that the strategy/marketing of myspace, in its consolidation, could be a reflection of the nature of class to be automatically played out through information dissemination.

    I think that if you could probe further into this structure, the way that the organisation is embedded within the flow of a global media empire and how it is figured as an extension of News Corporation, then there is something in there. Not sure exactly, but I think worth pursing.

  • Alyssa Gorrell

    I am not a social scientist, I have not even finished my undergraduate degree and I still see faulty conclusions in this paper. I am a previous user of Myspace and I still participate on Facebook. My background does not include wealth or even parents that have both attended college. I find it highly insulting to make generalizations when you can hardly know the details of personal experience. I stopped using Myspace because I got sick of the ads and the fact that the server was often down, Facebook is easier to use, its simpler. I believe that before you make vast generalizations maybe you should try to learn more about the people that use these sites. It appears to me, that you have taken a personal opinion and have backed it with little scientific evidence.
    Maybe instead of discussing the class divisions caused by programs such as these you could think about the effect that the computer age is having on our country’s youth. Yes, there are good virtues now and then, but think of the health of mind and spirit that is lacking in this new indoors lifestyle. Maybe instead of brandishing these programs as evil, we should instead, extol the virtues of a walk in the park.

  • Brilliant and definitely needed to be said. It feels very 1950′s-ish, as a parent of a teen these days. My son’s health ed book says that his parents will be disappointed in him unless he stays abstinent until marriage (in the San Francisco Bay Area!)

    The rules for being “good” are untenable, and the kids who can see that the emperor has no clothes have to choose between being devious liars or rejecting the system entirely.

    Now, we certainly had good/bad dichotomies too, but rebellion was an accepted stage of development back in the day (late 70′s to at least early 90′s). Teens separated and then they figured it out and returned. To some extent, they felt protective of their parents, unwilling to horrify them with what actually went on during those years (Traci Bonham’s Mother Mother springs to mind). Now, forget it. Kids aren’t allowed to (visibly) separate. That’s disloyal.

    Again, in an excellent high school I’m intimately familiar with, a previous valedictorian (there are typically about 15) had a crisis of conscience when at a worldclass university about how she cheated to get her straight A average. She returned the valedictorian artifact and was shunned by her community for ADMITTING she had cheated.

    In a culture that values transparency, when you’re powerless it seems to me you have two choices: you can either take photos of innocuous crap or you can be real but distance yourself from anyone who, having never experienced powerlessness themselves, might be appalled by the choices you have to make.

  • I’m a student pastor (read: I minister to middle and high school students) in metro Atlanta and I tend to agree with what you’re observing. In my youth group I have some students from a lower-middle class to high-lower class as well as students from the middle and middle-upper class. I’ve seen most of my students migrate away from MySpace in the past 6 months.

    This summer I spent a week with 120 teens on a missions trip and of all the teens I met (well, those who wanted to stay in touch with me) _all_ of them gave me their facebook address. Almost none of the students (as far as I could tell) were from a ‘poor’ family background.

  • Thought-provoking essay, Danah.

    I’d be interested to see whether a study of the advertisers (and the ads themselves, obviously) would yield parallel results. Marketers have been searching for ways to get the best ROI out of social networks, and your analysis seems much like the demo/psychographic research a brand would do before choosing to post a MySpace page or throw some banner ads on Facebook.

    I’m post-college, and I’d never joined Facebook because it wasn’t an option for me. While I’m growing tired of the “one size fits all” social network phenomenon, I do keep up with my high school and college friends on MySpace. I think we’ll continue to see audiences for these fragment culturally and regionally.

  • Hmmmmmm… it concerns me this article makes a lot of bold statements without citing *any* facts to back them up. Where are the citations, the statistics, the reliable sources? These seem to be observations and nothing more.

    And on that note, I could write a similar article on the basis of *my* observations about my friends and my clicking around these websites (which, as it happens, I am paid to do – so do so a lot!) but it would bear no resemblance to this author’s “findings”:

    As also commented by “James L”, my experience of Facebook is a real mix of friends – some from high school, others from past jobs, people of all backgrounds, they are all friends on Facebook and simply cannot be categorized according to the author.

    Further, most of my friends on Facebook also have MySpace pages and revel in the opporunity to “Pimp My Profile” – regardless of their “class”. To suggest a “bling” MySpace page gives away your social background is tenous at best, because everyone on MySpace has a “bling” page – because they can! That’s half the fun!

    I think it is far more realistic to simply view MySpace and Facebook for what they are: just two different SN websites, encouraging their users to behave in distinctly different ways. While they may attract a slightly different audience, in my experience they overlap hugely. People tend to have a presence on both and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms. My friends tend to have their fun on MySpace and keep in touch on Facebook, regardless of their social background.

    It’s plain to see there is a difference in the way users behave on the different websites, because they encourage different sorts of behaviour and thrive for different reasons – but class divide? I think not.

    That said, I would be very intrigued to see *real* facts (e.g. MySpace and Facebook officially published demographics).

  • T Ly

    Nice.
    Just one request; can you also talk a bit about your background? If MySpace and Facebook existed back when you were a High School senior, which one would you have chosen?
    I’m not calling you out on bias. Even “bad” kids know they’re “bad”, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, there might not even be all that much wrong about it. These kids could actually have chosen their lifestyle to be such. Those who jump class are those rags to riches or lunatic celebrity stories. And so humanity marches on in the way it has for hundreds of years.

  • Ken

    Fascinating work, danah. While I understand your preference for qualitative methods, I also agree that some descriptive statistics might be helpful. In particular, do you have a sense of how many users have active accounts on both platforms? If this is a non-trivial population, it might be interesting to know how much time they spend on each, and whether or why that might change over time. Is it (as Ms. Gorrell suggests) “feature driven,” or is it (as you suggest) a sort of proto-classism?

    On a different note, I’m teaching a course on inequality this winter, and may like to have my students read your essay. These will mostly be college frosh-level (I understand this is not your focus, but they’re near enough to high school they may offer relevant insights); I would have no problem with asking them to (voluntarily) fill out a survey (of your design), if you like.

  • Couldn’t be more timely, good stuff. Can’t help but think that this is part of the unspoken appeal in the rush for everyone to build Facebook apps (my employer included). I nominate that guy above who commented about pot smoking violin players as boob of the year, btw.

    The BBC sure took the political wind out of this study’s sails!

  • I learned of your essay from my digital friend, Prometheus 6.

    Your research is pretty cool.

    I read your blog essay and some of the comments in this thread. The essay and one of the comments sparked a few ideas.

    1) Interactions between cultural capital, social capital, and social psychology and the ways these social phenomena influence the distribution of social rewards (wealth, power, prestige) interest me. And, I’d like to learn more about whether or how young adults’ social networking software choices and behaviors might inform us about the influence aversive racism* has on ethnic minorities who compete for social capital, as an economic resource, in the U.S. For instance, I’d like to learn more about whether an individual’s aversive racist dispositions, which might be measured best using IATs, are influenced most by his social network (something sociometricians might be able to map and compare), his native cultural milieu or social class, the images of other ethnic groups and other cultures that he consumes via popular mass media, or other social phenomena. I predict your work, if it would teach us more about how people make social networking decisions based on their cultural tastes, their aesthetic tastes, and their economic incentives, could also help us learn more about which social phenomena influence aversive racist dispositions most and how. Your research findings might be able to teach us more about how social networks operate to encourage or discourage their members from learning more about the similarities or differences between them and members of other ethnic groups or other social networks.

    2) Perhaps your findings regarding the movement of social networks between MySpace and Facebook also suggest that social networking software applications such as these have some kind of natural life cycle or “popularity cycle.” If you find there is often a measurable life cycle for social networking apps such as these, a cycle that is related to the average young adult’s ceaseless demand for novelty or trends or means to differentiate herself from the last decade’s average young adult, then more information about how to measure these life cycles and how to determine which factors speed them up or lengthen them out would be very valuable to marketers, trendspotters, and Web 2.0 entrepreneurs.

    3) I’ll respect your unedited blog essays, especially those that will contain novel ideas, great analyses, or dot-connecting syntheses. I’m more interested in your inventive, analytic, and synthetic powers, and the great benefits of sharing your ideas and collaborating with others via blogs early, than I am in your blog essay syntax or style. But I’m no linguistic prescriptivist or “grammar hammer;” I’m just a guy who likes new ideas and who doesn’t want smart and creative folks, who have the powers to generate them, to hold them back from us until their essays have been edited thoroughly. If I did have some useful suggestions for your blog essay syntax or style, I’d probably send them to you through a private email, so that interested blogs readers like me would not be distracted from your great ideas by random thoughts concerning your blog essay syntax or style.

    * Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2004). “Aversive racism.” In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 1 – 52). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Gaertner, S. L., & Dovidio, J. F. (1986). “The aversive form of racism.” In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

  • Comment I heard recently in downtown SF, on Market Street, close to the Apple store, from one teenaged Black girl to another:

    “I want to go to the iPod store and check my Myspace.”

  • Danah, any idea if the design of each site affects the behavior of those who use it? Or, more specifically, attracts (over time) a certain type of person to use it?

    A basic assumption that most of us make, I think, is to treat the design of the site as neutral, that it has no influence on what happens there…curious to know your thoughts on that.

  • I guess I see your observations as interesting, but unsurprising.

    The class difference you seem to be struggling with describing looks pretty clearly to me like the one between “college-bound” and not.

    Of *course* young people will choose to hang out where the people who are already where they hope to be going are hanging out! It’s the next best thing to sneaking into the bars in the nearest college town.

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with the characterization of college-bound youth as “hegemonic” let alone “good”. (Just who is this “we” who think the college bound are somehow not doing all the same stupid stuff as their non-college-bound classmates? Hell, I’m a parent to kids this age, and I’m very clear that these kids drink and smoke pot just as we did back in the bad old 70′s!)

    College-bound youth are the ones who have chosen to accept and act upon the widely-held consensus that professional and social success in 21st Century USA requires a college degree. They may be emo. They may be goth. They may have bands. They may be upper middle class. They may just have parents who are working their asses off to get them the opportunity to become middle class. But in any case, what separates them from the other kids is their sense of where they want to be next, and what they are willing and able to do to get there.

    Until we have a society in which an undergraduate education *isn’t* most often a pre-req for a middle-class life, yeah, the choice to seek that education or not is going to be a pretty strong stratifier. Most of the influences on that choice are deep-seated and well off-line.

    Social networking sites will, of course, continue reflect the choices people are making about who it is they want to be with.

  • This is a really interesting paper. I’m a University of Texas student and found out about Facebook rather early on, before I had even heard of Myspace. I now have accounts with both (I joined both at the behest of friends) and have noticed pretty much exactly what you’ve said.

    I grew up in a rural poor community in Texas, where very few are college-bound. (My mother was college-educated and a school teacher, and I knew I was going to college before I even started pre-school.) The vast majority of the kids I grew up with are on Myspace and only Myspace. A few who, like me, went off to college, are on Facebook, but usually the ones who are on Facebook only use Myspace to keep in touch with friends from high school. They primarily use facebook.

    You might be interested, for further research, in how Myspace is making changes to become more like Facebook — adding photo albums and so on. It would be interesting to talk to the developers in how they view their own product, and whether they intend to make any movements toward appealing to hegemonic society.

  • Brilliant, well thought out essay. Perceptive, innovative thinking, comprehensive, unpretentious and astute. wow. Thanks.

    Discussing class in the USA is a complex, difficult topic, not one that many Americans are comfortable with and it’s usually considered politically incorrect.

    Class, A Guide Through the American Status System by Paul Fussell is the only likable book I’ve ever read on the subject.

    Merchants of Cool (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/) discusses capitalism and teen society with intelligence.

    The documentary, The Century of the Self, (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2637635365191428174) details the beginnings of the advertising business in the USA, has aspects that touch on the topic you’ve revealed.

    But cyber class structure, particularly among teens, has a whole other level of complexity and you’ve nailed it beautifully.

  • Peter

    A couple of comments. What I find fascinating is that in high school I would have been part of the “subaltern” group not because my parents were poor (they’re not) but because I was ostracized at school for being intelligent. So I probably would have had a MySpace account if it had existed in the mid-to-late 90s (I graduated in 1998). However, I deftly avoided MySpace when it was launched – by that time I had entered grad school (and am still there) and was bored by what I saw as a lot of pages with poor site design. Basically, you couldn’t even read them because the people who had modified the pages were extraordinarily bad at understanding which backgrounds to use so as not to make the foreground impossible to read. Also, music blaring as soon as I log on to a page is incredibly annoying.
    I have been a user of Facebook almost since it was launched, even though I would still consider myself far from being in a “hegemonic class” as a Marxist political science grad student, beyond the potential hegemony involved in being a professor. One reason was that, obviously, most of the people I knew were on Facebook when I joined, so it was a de facto place to go. The pages were also cleaner and easier to read than MySpace – I don’t know if this has anything to do with a class divide but for me that was part of the dealbreaker. You could read information without having to strain your eyes (perhaps this just shows that my artistic talents are few and far between, but I do appreciate modern art, just not Myspace).
    Your research is fascinating because it hits at the heart of the class divide in the US, and of course in capitalism class is always at the heart of matters – but I wonder what the percentage of families is in the US with computers and internet access? Did you take into account the low percentage of computer usage or ownership in poorer communities? I worry that you may have visited communities that self-selected themselves because of a modicum of wealth to have families that owned computers and had regular internet usage. What is the Myspace/Facebook divide in Detroit or the poorer sections of LA, or Bed-Stuy in NYC?

  • Stephanie

    I completely agree with most of what I read, however I would have to disagree with your placement of ‘geeks’ in the myspace grouping. The geek community has its own online community outside of myspace and facebook and tend to disdain association with either of the groups you mentioned, however if they are on one or the other it tends to me facebook from what I’ve seen. or to paraphrase, they a) don’t go to social networks at all or b) go to facebook because it’s open API

  • Re: Paul Willis “argued that working class teens will reject hegemonic values because it’s the only way to continue to be a part of the community that they live in.”

    This was captured in the brilliant documentary called “People Like Us.” It explores the US class divide from all different angles, and there is a scene where a girl from a working class family faces being ostracized from her family & community because she wants to move to the big city and jump classes.

    “People Like Us” is definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed this essay.

  • Thanks for an interesting and provocative blog post.

    I got a good sense from your essay at what the “average” user was like for each of the two communities, but I didn’t get a clear sense of “standard distribution”. It’s not surprising to me that competing social sites would eventually tend to focus on different demographics, both from a sociological standpoint and from a business one. (The former standpoint’s already been discussed; the latter is one way to avoid everyone treating you as runner-up to the Big Dominant Site; think, e.g., Ebay vs. every other auction site.) And Facebook’s original exclusive membership naturally tends to place it from a different pole in the social-sphere than the open-from-the-start MySpace.

    But service demographics shift, as you’ve noted in your essay; and a number of folks on either site deviate from the portrayed “average”, as noted in th e comments. As someone who find social pressures more of a concern than simple self-selection, I’d be interested in knowing the extent to which each site is either open to people joining who deviate from the average, and to what extent there is pushback (or flight) in response to migration or deviation.

    As someone who’s well over what I suspect is the average age for both sites, I can relate to finding “graphical noise” a bit offputting. When I finally got a cell phone recently, for occasional use (there’s another demographic differentiator…), I read through the package inserts and the network’s web site, thought “this design is so not me. But it’s a good deal for cheap prepaid wireless.” And I was pretty sure they had a good read on the demographic they *were* mainly aiming for. Having seen MySpace now, I recognize some design affinities…

  • Oddly enough, there is a teenage kid that lives near my place who has parents that are both teachers, and because of where they live, he rarely comes into contact with other people his age except at high school. A few days ago, I asked him if he had a MySpace or Facebook account. He told me neither, he had a LiveJournal account, because that is where all the “grown-ups” are.

  • i am wondering how this relates to tribes, individuality, and cultural humility. it seems to me that the hegemonic teens, as i was clearly one of them, but not, are raised to think about distant futures, where other cultures are taught about identity. one is about WHO ARE YOU, and the other is WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE.

    in hegemonic families, you are taught to create your self in the shape of clay that can be later molded. other classes, seem to teach you to harden your form at a younger age.

    i plan to blog about this later, great essay!

  • A Reader

    With all due respect, I think articles like this only contribute to the problem.

    Imagine, if you can, that you had never seen or heard of MySpace or Facebook before. You go on, surf, read posts, see pictures of people.

    Now imagine that before surfing these websites, you read an article saying, “MySpace and Facebook are new representations of the class divide in American youth.”

    I think you know the result!

  • Tricia Robinson

    Okay, first things first. I am a typical highschool student you seem to make references to and about. And I don’t understand why you have to make something SO simple SO complex!? why don’t you just leave it alone! myspace isn’t for under or less educated kids! what in your right mind would make you even THINK that?! Myspace and Facebook are just ways of communicating ..and to let you know i have accounts of BOTH sites! And i like them BOTH! And I absolutely disagree with you! I’m actually quite angry with your suggestions of who goes to which site!

  • tom joad

    great article, and solid points.

    i have to disagree with first poster, greg, though about trust and identity.

    i started as a myspace user and switched to facebook at the insistence of a friend. i have since left facebook, but not entirely.

    while facebook verifies your identity, or tries to (my real name is not tom joad, but i got past its filters), it also forces you to identify yourself and choose a network; anonymity is not an option. say what you want about that being the cornerstone of security, i think it is the opposite – facebook forces users to post their real, identifiable info. that is not trust in my book. i also chose “no network” on facebook, because i value privacy. facebook is just as rife with security problems as myspace; these are simply never publicized. with a note to identity and trust, facebook will still not allow users to permanently delete accounts.

    i noticed another trend – facebook users tend to grant friend requests to anyone in their network. on myspace, i would regularly decline friend requests with no problem; picking and choosing your friends and keeping tight social boundaries is respected if not expected. the myspace friend lists are also entirely user generated: few go over 500 and far fewer over 1000 for personal profiles. this is not the case on facebook and raises an interesting effect. on facebook, someone friended me whose politics i did not quite agree with, and i rejected the friend request – the first one i rejected – and promptly received several messages asking why i rejected the request.

    facebook creates a trusted environment, while myspace creates an open environment. i think a corollary can be drawn here between the street smarts of working class youth or subcultures v. the expectation of a protected environment for middle-upper class suburban or mainstream youth; you need street smarts on myspace, you don’t on facebook, hence myspace users have stricter social filter guidelines as users go – if they choose to have sexbots as friends, it is because they choose so, not because it is expected of them by the structure of the site, as with facebook’s networks – whereas facebook users rely on the site itself to filter “social undesirables” from their friends list.

    another reason subcultural or social fringe elements stick to myspace is the enhanced creative environment. again, it is a blank palette. facebook is more restricted in user input but provides more ready-to-use apps.

    again, perhaps a class distinction arises. when i was in high school eleven years ago, it was still common for seniors to be split into three groups – those whose parents bought them a car at age 18, those who had no money for a car even at age 18, and those who bought a clunker and worked on it until it ran. the auto-shop kids were definitely lower class. the new beemer/audi crowd was definitely upper to upper-middle class. the same went for computer geeks i knew: the lower class kids made computers from spare parts and dabbled in slapped together PC’s and Linux and BBS’s; the rich kids had AOL and new Windows 95 Pentium PC’s (hey, this was 1995-96 we’re talking about) bought for them.

    the aesthetic is different. if you make something with your own hands, through your own creativity, it has value in working class communities. value in upper class communities derives from the status an object/thing grants you.

  • interesting essay.

    although you suggest that facebook users often come from families that emphasize education, etc., i was wondering if you methodology accounted for the fact that facebook was, up until recently, open only to educational or employment networks, and so most users will probably still reflect this skewed proportion towards educated individuals?

    great blog, very interesting stuff.

  • Bob Smith

    Very good article! Just one piece of constructive critism. You do not need to use big words to try and convey a point. Rather, your use of hegemonic makes you seem inexperienced.

  • Deacon Jones

    Congratulations that your article hit /., however, I would be a bit embarrassed. You should have taken a few moments to read it over and edited first. It started as a good article but I got too annoyed with all the grammar mistakes that I stopped reading it.

  • We will be watching your career with great interest.

  • Great.

    One possible “but”. A lot of the “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths” and so on I have known were middle class kids. In your comment point #4 you address that some subalterns are college-bound and some aren’t. I might make that claim even deeper: some subalterns are lower class and some are middle (or even upper!) class, with *all* of the follow-on implications that entails, including but not limited to post-secondary education.

    Maybe I think that because I come from a smaller town Canadian background where cultural self-identify (are you a grunge kid or a preppy?) wasn’t as tightly tied to class (does your Dad work at the Goodyear plant or run a store?) as it may be in larger more rigidly stratified cities and towns. And countries.

    And a response to a lot of the comments that have tried to dismiss the papers conclusion’s by suggesting that the observed divisions are rooted in the marketing or technology context of the SNSs: class is rarely enforced directly by willing conspirators, it is often the unwitting result of just those kind of infrastructures. Yet somehow the infrastructure is more likely to be class-divisive than class-inclusive. The “intent” of class entrenchment doesn’t have to be on the surface for it to be there or effective.

  • Dilan Manatunga

    I thought this essay had many valid points. The only thing I was slightly disappointed about may just be due to my experience. I am from Atlanta, Ga, but I had to go Washington for debate camp. A lot of the people I met there were from the general West Coast area, and they tended to use MySpace. On the other hand, most of my friends from the east tended to use Facebook. This is just based on my experience though, so it might not be an accurate statement.

  • This is a reply to Alice wayyyy back up there from last night– Alice, I can think of at least one particular instance where FB -IS- used to make new friends, namely when a batch of strangers are joined together in being admitted to the same school. My experience is not unique, but I did recount it more fully in an interview with Karine Joly on her site

  • Fantastic work–and right on. I teach middle school and almost everyone’s “myspace.” A few serious and studious kids have “Facebook” accounts already to communicate with older siblings (and their friends, but seldom) in higher ed.

    If anyone criticizes your use of “class” in your work, that’d probably be for making headlines (to steal your thunder) or displaying his or her own ignorance. Wonderful job here.

  • i am wondering how this relates to tribes, individuality, and cultural humility. it seems to me that the hegemonic teens, as i was clearly one of them, but not, are raised to think about distant futures, where other cultures are taught about identity. one is about WHO ARE YOU, and the other is WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE.

    in hegemonic families, you are taught to create your self in the shape of clay that can be later molded. other classes, seem to teach you to harden your form at a younger age.

    i plan to blog about this later, great essay!

  • Loyal V

    I attend Ball State University in Muncie, IN, a school that attracts students from all different social strata due to relatively low tuition and rural location. Facebook is the common SNS, but I see an almost equal amount of students using Myspace in the computer labs.

    It seems to me that the two systems serve similar purposes when used in tandem- academic relationships are tracked on Facebook while social relationships (in and out of the classroom) are tracked on Myspace.

  • Fuzzy Bunny

    A few comments:

    * Very interesting conclusions. But I would like to see some data. Yes, it’s a very square desire, but one in line with all sciences, including social sciences. If this is meant to be a thought paper to solicit feedback and ideas, it’s a great start. But if it’s going to move beyond, you need to clarify where and how you’ve drawn your conclusions from. This isn’t to say you’re wrong; this is to say you need to prove WHY you’re right.

    * Can someone’s identity straddle categories, i.e. Preppy queer, lower-class kid who is eager to adopt the habits of her new ivy peers, etc.? What if you’re both a “good kid” and like weird cultural shit? It happens all the time.

    * Earlier posters keep referencing Bordieu, and in particular his “Distinction” article. A big part of that article was that lower classes can learn to mimic many aspects of upper class culture, and I’d think joining Facebook would be among the easist new habits to learn.

    * Putting both sites in historical contexts would be helpful. Kudos to the earlier poster who pointed out that Facebook used to be far more exclusionary than it is today, and is growing to be more like another MySpace.

  • Daniel

    Hi there! I’m an undergrad student at the now-defunct Antioch college in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

    I really just have two questions about your article:

    The first is isn’t most of this pre-determined? What I mean is facebook was originally designed for college students. Wouldn’t it then make sense that college bound or college seeking high school students would opt for facebook over myspace?

    The second question (I believe) is the more interesting. So as we all know, joining either myspace or facebook is completely voluntary. There is absolutely nothing holding someone back from joining either of these sites (Save for of course their awareness of the existence of said websites, which granted is an issue).

    It has been said in our society (Mainly by republicans) that the poor CHOOSE to be poor. Obviously this is not true. IT is however interesting to note that the internet allows us (At least for the moment) true freedom. IF we want something we have the ability to grab it. So why is it we choose to re-create social stratification seen in real life within our virtual environment?

    I believe the answer to this question is “we know no other way.” Wouldn’t it be nice to transcend the societal boundaries and create a true classless society…at least on the internet?

    P.S. Sorry if this is unintelligible…At work dodging my boss.

  • Ryan

    First off, I am glad that people are finally starting to recognize the potential that is in these networking sites. But, as a Facebook user, I feel that you have oversimplified the situation. THis is understandable, as fully analyzing the situation would be almost impossible and would rely on masses of computer spreadsheets and the like.

    I come from a fairly ‘mixed’, as you called them, school. we have a good amount of subaltern students, and a good number of hegemonic students. But most of us use Facebook. You need to account for the fact that many fringe students will joine Facebook because it is the better known of the two in an area, and that many hegemonic students will join Myspace because it is better known regionally.

    Take me for example. I’m the kid that everyone likes. The kid that everyone thinks shows up high to class, but who, in reality, doesn’t do drugs. This would seem to indicate that I am hegemonic in nature, but that is not the case. I am bisexual, which would indicate Myspace, and I am very involved in a number of arts, all of which would indicate Myspace. I self identify as a fringe student, which would also indicate Myspace. But I use Facebook, primarily because the vast majority of my school uses Facebook.

    I am glad that the adult world is finally coming aware of these networking sites, and that they are being looked at closely, all I am trying to do is to give you another way of looking at the data that you gathered. I wonder how many fringe students would identify with my description of myself.

  • Christopher

    I am confused about one aspect of your article. I do not see subculture, race, and sexual orientation (“Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids”, “goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids”) mapping directly to socio-economic classess. The article attempts to make the connections, but I am not convinced that they exist. I have many questions that tie into this.

    I am a member of the age group and communities being discussed, and my experiences with Myspace and Facebook is contradictory to much of what you have said in the essay. I’d be more than happy to share my experience with you to help your research

  • I’m a bit disappointed.

    I’m not on the same wavelength, politically. At the same time, I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m probably wrong about a lot of that, which is why I am intrigued by papers like this. But I’m not interested in hashing out the same old political crap; chances are, I could probably hold my own on most of the usual topics.

    So I was looking to be informed: to hear things that were compelling, and which could alter my political view.

    And I got some of that. The first sections were excellent, challenging me with information. But, too quickly, things tended to devolve into the same, tired political debates.

    In particular, your section on the military was a profound let-down. Labels like “xenophobic” are not useful; they preach to the choir, and engender suspicion in the less-convinced when not accompanied by evidence. Neither are conspiracy theories about the ban, when evidence is equally lacking. The discussion and explanation that accompanied the teen/college scene and the aesthetics discussion were completely absent in the military discussion.

    As just one example: the military is supposed to be more “working-class” throughout than the general population, which would imply that there’s a population of officers coming from the ranks of the “subalterns”. Is that true, and do their use of Facebook/MySpace change after the transition? I’m interested in that question far more than in the evidence-free musings about why the military banned MySpace.

    I don’t mean to say that you’re not entitled to your political beliefs. Nor do I want to get into any of the specifics of our political differences. My point is that I think you had a purpose in writing this, and I tend to think people like me are your audience–people generally indisposed to your point of view, but willing to be convinced. At least, I think we are part of your audience. At minimum, if I’m “hegemonic”, maybe you want my help in combating this class separation, or perhaps you want to counter the anti-MySpace hype (which I’ve certainly seen, and which bewilders me to a degree).

    If not, though, then it might be helpful to understand who your audience is.

  • Daniel – you sound very right on as far as I am concerned.

    Here’s something to consider for everyone here.

    The default MySpace profile looks pretty clean in implementation and isn’t *noisy* at all.

    It’s those that *decide* to change their page who make their MySpace profiles that way.

    I’m neither a fanboy of either MySpace or Facebook. However, when I hear folks decrying the look of most MySpace pages, and blame MySpace, they seem to overlook the fact that it was the participant’s *decision* to change their page that way.

  • Ryan

    A thought provoking read with many good points. Overall I think you “hit the nail on the head” so to speak. Good work, thanks!

  • Seriously? I just threw up in my mouth a little. Your logic is so flawed I couldn’t even begin to start pointing everything out. Oh, BTW, I’m in the military, and Facebook is banned, also. And I’m not an officer, yet I have an MBA and I’m a member of Myspace AND Facebook. Get a clue! Or maybe a real job……

  • Ed

    I’d also like to ask if Facebook wasn’t closed off to college only (maybe enterting class of that college included) when it first came out? Thus making it “impossible” or at least less likely that younger internet users at the time could have used facebook as myspace; and perhaps as a result people that switch to or use Facebook because it already has the built in “more grown up” for “college aged” kids.

  • Steve Petersen

    Dana,

    Your essay is a fascinating read.

    I think that there are two key issues between Facebook and MySpace of which I didn’t see much discussion of — privacy tools and reputation management — in your essay.

    Concerning behavior of “good” kids you state: “many of the ‘good’ kids will engage in some of the most shocking behaviors… but they get pushed further underground and parents become less in-touch with their ‘good’ kids.” I agree that “bad” kids don’t hold a monopoly on participation in unsavory behavior, but is the difference between “good” and “bad” kids the importance they place on reputation management that privacy tools facilitate?

    It seems that upward social mobility requires a relatively squeaky clean image; the keyword is “image,” not behavior. Perhaps Facebook appeals more to the “good” kids — as you cautiously assert — since it enables them more to conceal the entirety of their behavior from parents and other arbitrators of social advancement (college admissions staff members, potential employers, organization member committees, other “good” kids, etc.) than the open-book style of MySpace.

    Do “good” kids want to appear better than they truly are while “bad” kids simply care less about their image?

    Image alone doesn’t explain difference between the Facebook and MySpace crowds. Even “bad” kids also fret about “image” since emos, goths, punks, and similar subsets also invest a lot in clothes, behaviors, tastes, and off-line social networks to define themselves in their chosen way?

    Thus, may I ask again, could the class divide between Facebook and MySpace stem from attitudes of reputation/image management?

    Steve

  • danah….there was much talk of Facebook (as well as Twitter and Jaiku) at last week’s Supernova2007 con….and lots of talk how social networks/social media can become anti-social. Your findings key into my assertion that if companies use Facebook–with its particular insularity and ways of connecting with others predominantly as a result of f2f interaction–as the paradigm for how *everybody* relates to others online, they are seriously selling short the world of social media. Facebook, beyond the hype, is really a small, small, socially-segregated space in the realm of social media and shouldn’t be used as its benchmark. Thanks for the great work!

  • obo

    I don’t know what it is, or what it says about me, but my experience with both doesn’t fit this essay at all – not that I know people of one subculture on MySpace and another on Facebook, but that my social network has, and frequently uses, both of them.

    I would have considered this perhaps more insightful before Facebook opened up, but it’s a totally different picture now.

    Also: Who are the people in this age group who don’t use either network? I know it’s a harder metric to measure, but it’s significant – I have just as many friends who use other, less evident networks, or don’t participate at all. Is this where the true non-conformists are?

  • Don

    The thesis here seems pretty weak, in part due to the lack of real statistics and research, but also due to the obvious ommissions with regards to comparisons between the services themselves.

    In many respects, Facebook offers a superior product to MySpace. If you follow tech blogs, you’ll find the majority of bloggers and readers comment more positively about Facebook than about MySpace (whether it’s thanks to better spam control, easier poeple searching, or other factors).

    I don’t doubt that there is somewhat of a class division between users of MySpace and Facebook. However, I expect this has a lot to do with free time – in that users with more leisure time, who tend to be more computer literate – migrate to the social network they know to offer a better service.

    At least this thesis would be backed up by the fact that the average Facebook user spends more minutes logged into the service than the average MySpace user.

    People of every economic class like to get more for less. If the positive buzz continues about Facebook, even the less computer literate surfers out there will eventually migrate over… At least until the next big thing comes along and it all happens again.

  • Hmmmm…interesting….let me make a very class conscious comment since America is not so “class conscious”.

    I always thought that my space is for the redneck.

    I made this opinion even before Facebook came into the scene.. Ha ha ha !

  • John

    SNS is the highest form of narcissism. To think that “the world” is somehow interested in your life is just..

    I’d be interested to see statistics of people that know about both FB and Myspace; but choose to not use a SNS and for what reason.

    Cell phones don’t work anymore?
    Your instant message services are down?
    You forgot your email password?

    Why people have the “need” to post their lives publicly at all is what interests me.

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