My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & 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

  • M. McBride

    As part of my teacher education, I taught in high schools all this year. What I saw was consistent with your report.

    At one high school, where the majority of students are immigrants and living in poverty or near poverty, most didn’t even have access to a computer. In fact, for one of my classroom activities – an “I am from poem” one of the categories is “items in your room.” More than one student said “nothing – I have nothing in my room.” This is very different than the affluent high school where I taught my second semester. These are the same students who can afford to hang out at Starbucks (what I call their “fake apartment”) and drink 5 dollar coffees – everyday. These students have it all. And Facebook allows them to show that off – as well as their social and cultural currency.

    One key difference is how Facebook privileges material socioeconomic status – having “tastes” is precluded by having stuff. Most of the kids I teach do not own their own copies of the books they read. And now that students are rarely allowed to take novels home (they don’t make it back to the school and the schools have little money for books as it is), it’s even harder for students to feel “ownership” – for their learning or for culture (as culture is defined by ownership and ownership defines status and participation).

    Myspace is quite different. Students can access that music via youtube. The at-risk students I’ve worked with here in Toronto – even those who are living in shelters, take part in myspace. So where do they get their “taste” – many use Youtube to listen to music. One student I worked with lives in a shelter and doesn’t own any sort of musical device, doesn’t OWN anything for that matter. This student would spend all off hours at school listening to music on Youtube. That was his only experience of popular culture.

  • Thank you for a very interesting read. And thank you for giving me another pointer to something I was unconsciously interested in but never know until I now stumbled over it: ethnology.

    Amazing observations of yours and even if your statement is not formally academic I would still regard it as highly relevant. In some fields of research your work would actually already be regarded as precise enough.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Dr.Mabuse

    Hello, I found your article very interesting even from a German viewpoint. You may know that we have also a newly inspired debate about the ‘Unterschicht’ which means the poor, mostly jobless, and excluded from school and the idea of upgrading. When the conservatives hit the elections 1983 there were about 1.2 million poor people and today we have 10 millions.
    I think you know what is meant by the term ‘Entfremdung’, not very good translated to alienation. This Marxian term describes just what I feel when I am in contact – a lot of my clients are from th epoor side of the spectrum.
    The people get no qualified school termination and will wait for the rest of their life for a job which gives their life a sense and besides enough money to feel acceptable in social relationhships.
    As you see what happens in the U.S.A: could you draw some political implications ?
    thanks for personal answer
    J. from Germany

  • Hi there,

    Extremely interesting essay. Great minds thinking alike? I blogged about this on the 22nd here

    I’d love to chat further with you about this – I’m turning mine into a longer piece right now.


    Jason Wilson

  • Ann

    Hello there!

    I wrote something similar, though not as eloquent, as this on my site a few days ago from the standpoint of someone on the fence between class and privilege. I, too, recognized the divide in the summer of 2005 while observing the diversity section of resident assistant training on my college campus. Now, I see things are quite different. As my peers and I take our college knowledge back to our neighborhoods and as Facebook has opened its doors to the world at large, there seem to be considerable shifts in the class divide. For one, high school students now have access to their own network on Facebook. Also, the new Facebook application platform may work as a way of introducing previously uninterested people to the world of programming and computer science. It’s quite fascinating and I’m glad to have found someone who’s been super interested in it for a while. I wish you the best of luck with the study and dealing with the media.

  • Interesting. I wonder, what about the kids who use both?

  • Rebecca Diller

    I’ve noticed some people commenting are saying things like if you start with myspace, then graduate to facebook, what happens after facebook?

    – maybe nothing. facebook in my situation at least has become more valuable of a tool since college. initially i thought i’d outgrown it, but it has turned out that there is no easier way to keep in touch with the friends from college and start building a network in my new city.

    it’s even kind of reassuring – as a total stranger to a new area, i can physically see the progress i have made into the network here by looking at my regional friends list.

    of course, this wouldnt be possible without the trust factor also discussed above. the use of real names and locations and only assigning profiles to people – not bands or venues or restaurants – makes this kind of trust possible. facebook itself supports it – when you add a friend, there’s a section that you can record how you know them. one option is “i’ve never actually met this person” to which facebook responds, “then why are you friending them?”

    in short – a great essay. it voiced a lot of the trends i had been suspecting but didn’t have any data to confirm or assume. what comes post-facebook/myspace and if there will be a post-, and what that will mean sociologically will just have to be the next chapter.

  • Thought-provoking piece, danah – thank you. Two quick responses to Scott’s thoughtful comment up there (6/24) on the censorship being promoted in social-networking “orientation” at colleges (not to mention in school assemblies in middle and high schools): “I find this emphasis on censorship disturbing. Instead of learning the ‘good’ things we (the hegemonic students) are taught to mask the ‘bad’ behavior. I find this masking much more troubling than any of the ‘bad’ actions being masked.” Scott, it’s not just happening on university campuses; “masking” is being promoted by the online-safety field too.

    I think it’s a reflexive reaction by boomers and maybe Gen X-ers to how public behavior has become. Teens (all of us, for that matter) have always masked our “real” selves to an extent in social situations to different degrees, depending on who our audiences or publics were. Suddenly we all had social tools (SNS and other Net technologies) that gave our selves super publics as danah has written. “Diaries” and parties were no longer private. Youth didn’t find this particularly concerning (maybe in the early days of MySpace partly because they felt their public was only their friends anyway), but parents were shocked about this cavalier approach to privacy as well as the “behavior” exhibited. The latter was nothing new, parents had behaved “that way” when young, but it was all on display, and meanwhile a predator panic was under way. So masking was the knee-jerk protective measure promoted. What parents and online-safety advocates don’t yet realize is that 1) it’s a bandaid that can easily fall off and doesn’t accomplish much, and 2) the public nature of the social Web can actually and ultimately contribute toward problem solving. It can teach us stuff – “us” being parents, caregivers, researchers, social workers, youth advocates, law enforcement, etc. Censorship works against that. Does that make any sense?

  • mario

    i’m from Chile and i’ve just read about your work in bbc news. i’m doing my thesis in the same subject, but using flikr and fotolog. To my surprise, it seems that the results of my work are similar in a lot of aspects with your work.

    you got my mail so we can share our material.

  • Donald


  • You seem to have made one rather odd assumption here. The main issue you are indicating that I disagree with is that myspace has somehow attracted what you call as “MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers”.

    You need to look at something called the “-journal” types, (mainly livejournal and it’s duplicates). It pre-dates myspace, Facebook and the blogging phenomena. It has remained the geeks, freaks and queers “enclave” in blogging and social networking.

    I’m not trying to advertise, I personally use livejournal (or LJ as it’s affectionally called) for the exact reasons I said, since people of that type are within a seperate social circle and simply more likely to use an LJ for real world to online world social connections. While facebook and myspace are still far larger, the idea that myspace is the place for alternative is more than a bit off.

    Myspace is big now because it’s the mainstream(“whats your Myspace”). Now facebook is too it seems, but according to your work it’s an upper edge. The alternative still is neither.

    PS. For analysis, I’m about the graduate university and am likely to be successful in future. However, i’m in australia, where we have a somewhat less rigid class structure than the US.

  • den

    Very interesting read. I wonder however, how many people who respond are solely myspace users?

  • Will

    I’m curious as to why this study took 4 years?

    It’s merely pointing out the obvious, then stretching those points to extreme ends, creating exaggerated common sense that inflames the reader with controversial word choice.

  • I like your article very much on my fast read I will come back again when I am not so tired to comment more and respond to some people’s responses, of what I saw I agree with almost everything IO though your concept could use expanded its not just rich or poor or however you want to put it.

    PS: I use facebook and myspace and its true when I first saw Facebook’s streamline look or clean look I was eager to get in. This was at HS invite time.

  • Will Warner

    Will: First, as I understand it, the four years of study in the field of social networking was a very broad and general fishing expedition for anything interesting, and this essay was just an off the cuff discussion of one aspect of the results so far.

    Second, would it really have been common sense to you in 2003 that the differences between facebook and myspace mirrored larger class and cultural divisions among Americans? And even on the off chance that would have seemed obvious to you way back then, I’d point out that one man’s common sense is another man’s vicious partisan lie, and that’s why we need actual research to prove or disprove it.

  • Adam

    Myspace reminds me of when the internet was first getting started. Every time a new technology came out, everyone tried it and most of them failed and were no longer used. The problem with Myspace is, no one tells these people how annoying and completely messed up their sites are. I got fed up with trying to read pink text on a white background and having to click the pause button on every profile’s music player and switched entirely to Facebook.

    There are social barriers everywhere. The reason is because people do not take the time to understand one another. We believe our way is the only right way. That is what we grow up around. Sticking with the idea of “good” and “bad,” if everyone stopped to think of why a person did a “bad” thing, the barriers would start to disappear. All conflict stems from misunderstanding. We have a paradox where everyone wants to be different, but no one wants to be alone.

    The best we can do is to teach the people around us about diversity and to not react immediately, but to question what we do not understand.

    Do not get too lost in your own little world.

  • readerdiane

    My grown daughters both graduated from college and yet they are using 2 different networks. The older one was in college before Facebook became popular so her group of friends are on My Space.
    The younger one started on Facebook as a sophmore and that’s where her friends are.
    A couple of years after college and both are keeping the same social networks.

  • I especially found the part about aesthetics interesting. I think it presents a question for designers of such websites that has worrisome implications: Do designers actually encourage class separation (and segregation)?

  • Interesting read — but is it really about (some kind of) class, i.e. hierarchic/antagonistic structure, or isn’t it more about different life-styles, target groups, the aesthetic side of every-day life, social milieus, or even, let’s call it that, cultures (as in cultural studies?). In you blog entry, you write that your findings are disconcerting. I interpret this as: they are disconcerting, because they show that societal groupings, gaps and clusters can also be found in the virtual world. But why should this be different there?

  • Bravo to you for raising issues of social class in this land where social class is not supposed to exist. I’ll really look forward to seeing this research develop.

    Paul Willis has written recently about significant differences between “the Lads” and this generation of working-class kids, largely because of changes in work, consumerism, and a digital culture. You’ve spurred my thinking about the potential significance of social networking, given his concern about the challenges of identity formation among working-class kids when work is no longer a source of solidarity.

    I’ve blogged a bit about this over at:

    and would welcome more conversation about all of this.

  • Javier Sanchez

    I took some notes while reading you piece and I will share those as my response. BTW, kudos for an excellent writeup. And away we go:

    I find nothing offensive or upsetting about your essay, perhaps because it echoes my sentiments. However it is also quite interesting that you felt it might be, perhaps because of who you are and where you live, that you live in a very “politically correct” bubble. But what you wrote is simply true and the intent behind the words were clearly not meant to be derogatory or offensive. You are merely quantifying an observation and it does not warrant an apology. Surrounding key words with quotations is more than enough to distance yourself.

    Myspace military ban may have more to do with Instant Messaging capabilities within Myspace as well as the “Private Profile” factor which usually means that there is questionable content usually sexual. There is a liability there as the mility is certainly blocking websites based on content such as adult or peer-to-peer.

    Transcending barriers — A great example of this can be observed in the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”. Kids from all different types of backgrounds, whether classically trained or a break dancer from the streets, compete to see who is the best dancer. They are all forced to dance in solos and with partners in every possible style, not just their own specialty. What is clear is that ballroom dancers, lyrical dancers, and break-dancers can come from different classes where most people would have expected certain dance styles to be unique to a particular class or race. Additionally it shows that talent and versatility transcend race and class barriers as they do with everything else (intelligence, charisma, character, etc…). The class differences are only apparent when they speak, but when on stage, for those few minutes, everyone seems to forget it as the performance is all that matters.

    The issue of judgement and taste – it would seem that there is a corrolation between the poor taste in the design and custimazation of the typical MySpace page and a lack of good judgement in that individuals personal life.

    Unfortunately, today, it is cool for kids to be a thug. Even kids with better opportunities and upgringings seem to fall into this. However, as the middle-class dissapears both extremes seem to be gaining popularity. It is also cool to be a geek (and hopefully cool to be smart). Revenge of the Nerds was prophetic. Gates and Jobs and now the younger generation find it socially acceptable to be good with computers and excel in academics though the two can be exclusive. Video gamers are no longer the fat, socially retarded kid with poor hygiene any more either, and in many cases are fit and have a thriving social life with the “in crowd”.

    Popular music has shifted from Classical to Jazz to Disco to Rock to Grunge to Rap. This also should be an interesting indicator, and likely worthy of a well researched piece. It seems that further back you go down the chain the more elitist an audience you will find.


  • Ooops, of course I meant “danah”, not “Danah”. Sorry!

  • Frank Yu

    Great essay by the way on how the social networks reflect American Society. I riffed on what you wrote to discuss the Video Games Industry and China (which I’m part of) and how these same divisions explain a lot of why some people are not on FaceBook at this time. China has FaceBook clones but they are not really the same thing. Our version of MySpace is CyWorld or Tencent’s QQ but a facebook model would work very well in the un egalitarian world of modern China and Asia for that matter.

  • “Unfortunately, today, it is cool for kids to be a thug.”

    I believe it’s always been cool to be a thug in the 90s, or a greaser in the 50s, or a gangster in the 20s or beyond. Let’s not forget Billy the Kid, either. Also, pirates.

    The romance of being a rebel is about having control, about writing your own damn rules, and that’s always going to be “cool.” And rebelling is clearly something all kids will do regardless of class. It’s a cultural reaction that deliberately cuts one off from the dominant social norm. The real challenge is understanding why someone would choose, or feel necessary to do so.

  • AJK

    The only difference between the moral behaviour of social classes is their amount of “social face”. The higher up you go in social class, the larger the pressure on your “social face” and the more pressure there is to hide your negative moral behaviour. It is not “proper” to show certain behaviour publicly if you are from a higher social standing, but if you from a lower social standing it doesn’t really matter; it might even be encouraged.

    Interesting enough it is exactly this lifestyle from the ostracized teens which is scaring the hegemonic peers (which also might place Danah’s critic in perspective). This lifestyle of becoming rich and famous by being in a band, creating a blog, etc. comes from the ostracized teens who have found ways of skipping the road of “hard work” which the hegemonic group teaches their kids. The hegemonic group’s kids now also have fallen for this “easy” road and it is rightfully so, scaring them. How to convince kids that they should follow the hard road and still maybe never becoming rich, famous, etc. is the million dollar question. Should we? Are kids getting disillusioned by the Capitalist system ans way of life?

  • I would have looked into Bourdieu’s theory of “class”. There are words created by socialogists that can help you more with differentiation of class and taste. But you still did do a great job I think.

    Bottom line is… DESIGN.

    There was not one word about DESIGN here whereas the main distinction between the two comes down to aesthetics, which is design. Development is a huge factor too, but function only becomes effective through design.

    For more accurate judgements on Facebook, I think you really should have sat down with an avid Facebook user and went through profiles and really understood what is going on with it’s functions and features. Plus now, since about a month ago, there are APIs for developers that allow applications to be inserted to facebook profiles for more customization and I guess more “fun” with new features to increase traffic I suppose. It would have been nice if you had researched that as well and provided an outlook on the future of Facebook with it’s excessive attempts to conquer the web2.0 world for youth.

    I would have also liked to see research on other social-networking websites that define class and taste such as TakingITGlobal and provided some solutions for alternative ways youth in the global perspective are networking and how that differenciates with the majority of Facebook and MySpace users’ purpose to communicate and network due to “class” distinction.

    Good work though.

  • stefanos

    this film is about art networks and the margin of society: I think it does directly speak to your article: it is the often ignored that within which, lives the found art of the moment.

  • Werner Viljoen

    Your article gave me an abundance of insight in which I gained a ‘new’ understanding about the truth which would normally be labeled as ‘MySpace or Facebook – Make your choice’. You certainly illuminated my 21 year old south african mind (saturated I might add) with this enormously excellent article/citizen-report, a piece which with pride I added to my list of Favorites. There is no question that this article will keep me coming back for more. Please, do keep up the good work! Who knows, by following your work one day I might be able to write an article that would make an impression on you.

    One of your super fans,
    Werner Viljoen

  • D. Mitchell


    I am a high school art/graphic arts teacher. I found your article very interesting, but want to share my simple conclusion about the overarching visual differences between myspace and facebook.

    In graphic design a long-established principle is that, in order to attract a higher socio-economic class to your product, idea, magazine, whatever, your design should be simpler and include a great deal of white space (not necessarily white, mind you, but negative space). In order to attract a lower socio-economic class to your magazine, product, etc., you would leave much less empty space and try to cram in as much type and images as you can. Colors would be brighter when appealing to the lower socio-economic group as well.

    Having spent a good deal of time on both sites (from kicking my students off them during class, or my own use of facebook to keep up with my former students), this principle is very much in effect on both sites.

    Facebook’s design is clean and uses a good deal of white space. Individual sites within it pretty much follow the same pattern, and while myspace-like functionality has been added, it still has the same clean, upper-class design. Individual pages have less design variation, and where colors are present, the colors are subtle, with a greyed blue dominating.

    Myspace’s home page, on the other hand, is cluttered and uses more bright colors. Type is placed closer together, contributing to a sense of claustrophobia. Personal pages are generally cluttered and filled with, well, whatever that person can shove on the page.

    There is little wonder that lower socio-economic students feel more at home with myspace, while the upper level feels more at home with facebook. The designers of each site are using classic design theory to promote their site to a particular market.

    Just my two cents.

    D. Mitchell

  • upper middle class

    An excellent essay with wonderful insight (at least, it concurs with my own experiences on Facebook and MySpace).

    As a matter of feedback, I had a question about your underestimation of income levels in regards to class division. Your example includes “friends who are making $14K in cafes”. My question is: how many of those friends, especially ones working at a “cafe”, have parents or grandparents with larger amounts of income?

    It seems that instead of just writing off income, it might be interesting to see how many familial degrees of separation that person is from a larger amount of wealth, or even a higher level of education. I guess I have too many friends far wealthier than I am (trust fund babies) who based on their clothing, their income, their job, etc. would appear to be in a poor or lower class, but in reality, are only a few years away from making that first inherited withdrawal, or are only a phone call away from getting financial help which would never show up on a W2.

    I admit this is a minor point, but I think wealth, or at least, degrees of separation from wealth, play a far more important role in this class divide.

  • Will Warner

    AJK: Well, no matter how much we reform and improve our systems of values to be more egalitarian, racially tolerant, sexually liberal, environmentally conscious, educated, thoughtful, and so on, as long as we want creature comforts, new scientific discoveries, and artistic masterpieces, there will be a demand for hard work and diligence, and the hard road will be “worth” following. The way to bring your kids on board is probably to tell them that, but more importantly, to control their social group and whom they imitate: first their parents, and later each other. So in short, parents who want diligent, hard-working, middle-class kids will band together and exclude parents and kids who don’t particularly want that lifestyle. (Does my confidence in that answer mean I can have a million dollars now? Maybe if I use that idea to start some Meritocracy-ville ‘burb and attract all the worker bee people to it, then I can make a million?)

    D. Mitchell: This is fascinating. Any more info on when and where this distinction emerged and was first being taught to designers?

  • Jen Robinson

    These are some great ideas, danah. Really looking forward to how this piece of research progresses. Thanks for your insight, as always.

  • Jeremy

    I completely agree with almost all of your assertions. I write for a magazine that covers marketing trends and I’ve found there is a distinct difference between the companies that utilize MySpace and those that use Facebook for advertising. MySpace tends to be a place for movies, music, etc… (companies appealing to a broader, more urban audience) while Facebook is littered with ads from credit card companies and travel services.

    As someone who was a college sophomore when Facebook first appeared, there is absolutely a difference in the people found there vs. MySpace. I think the reaction by users when Facebook decided to open itself up to everyone by including “regional” groups is proof enough of the elitist mentality.

    I’m curious to hear what you think about the divide 10 years from now. Personally I think that because of Facebook’s use of corporate networks, today’s college students will continue to be segregated as they connect with people at work or when away on business. The popular employer networks right now like KPMG, Morgan Stanley, GE, represent upper-class. It would seem out of place for people who work at those companies to have MySpace pages, or at least to exclusively have a MySpace page.

    Overall I think you did a great job of pointing out the divide and researching its origins, and I hope you don’t stop here. The dichotomy in social networking can help explain so many societal questions that it certainly deserves to be explored further.

  • danah – I’ve posted my thoughts on your piece here.

    Have a nice vacation!

  • Nancy Prater

    Fascinating – and troublesome on oh-so-may levels.

  • Danah:

    I have to confess that I’ve been troubled by the same issues, which were flagged to me in the fall at your DIY talk in your use of images.

    I was particularly sensitive then given my semester in Cory’s seminar, but there is an apologetic tone in some of your work, like we should be sorry to point out that society is so messed up. Keep up the great work.

    I think Fred takes too micro a view. Technologies are tools, used by societies and American society is wrecked along coded lines. I’ve seen quantitative research and when immigration issues appear on “big news networks” message boards, the racist invective sky-rockets and “community web editors” find themselves not approving the most posts out of all type of stories.

  • I wondered whether the differing uses for Myspace and Facebook were more related to the identity management that the two systems force. Facebook seems far more linked to real life, real colleges, real workplaces: enabling your social life or your networking life to happen online. It feels very yuppie to me. I’m becoming aware of friends who have Myspace or Livejournal accounts developing Facebook profiles to ‘fit in’ at work.

    Myspace, on the other hand, can accommodate a real-life or an online-dominant persona, although the questions it asks (to create the user profile) also position it as a certain kind of space.

  • I like your analysis but think that the difference between the sites is more than just who they attract. The sites serve different purposes. MySpace is a place where indidviduals can express themselves. Members have total control over their pages, can upload videos, music, slideshows, etc. What many see as blink or gaudy are individuals trying to disgintuish their pages. This tends to attract the artsy, emo, hip-hop types.

    Facebook is pretty sterile. It’s purpose is for making connections. It does that well but it’s really not a great platform for self-expression.

  • Just another satisfied reader. I’m sure I’d have a little more to say if I read all the other comments, but that would be quite an undertaking.

  • Jordano

    I found your piece very interesting.

    However, I am curious why you were not able to “see” any facebook profiles. Couldn’t you sign up for facebook or ask people you interviewed to show you their profiles?

    I am also curious about what the actual numbers you came up with were. There are still lots more people on myspace than there are on facebook. Do you think that it will become more of a 50/50 divide now that facebook is open to everyone or do you think facebook will remain “elitist” because of its network background. Did you explore the city networks vs the school networks on facebook? I am curious if there would be a gap there?

  • Elsa

    i think the advertising that apears on either site is something you brushed on but could help make a very strong point… i am sure the advertisers for each site have a very good idea of who is on either site…

  • Amy

    Alright. Interesting essay, I think you have a few points, but it’s hard to compare.

    I come from an upper middle class family, and I am in a 4 year university. Just finished my freshman year with a 3.7 GPA. I have both a Myspace and a Facebook account.

    Myspace I originally joined up to keep up with my high school friends, most of which stay out there. Along the way, however, I found this community of roleplayers, who would literally write novels and forth to each other. These people were college educated, literate, innovative, and came from all walks of life. Now my Myspace profile is entirely devoted to roleplaying and that is all that I do on Myspace. However, I do spend most of my time there. Keep in mind that the roleplay community on Myspace is vast– and they are made up of different demographics than the rest of the Myspace users. I’ve had my share of perverts, stupid graphics, etc, on Myspace, but thank goodness I block all of those people. Now that I roleplay on Myspace, I find people with lovely looking, fast-loading profiles and literate comments with nary a glitter pic in sight.

    My Facebook I opened for much the same reasons– to keep up with my college friends. I rarely check in, but when I do, it’s for pictures and see what others are up to. People here bemoan the bad loading profiles on Myspace, but I hate that I’m stuck with a generic Facebook profile– I can’t change the color or anything. It annoys me to no end. Also, Facebook is just built differently– and I can’t find any roleplay communities on there, because it just isn’t built for that like Myspace is.

    I think part of the thing is that Myspace was popular first– all the spambots and everyone went there and now its saturated with those people– as others have said, Facebook has only recently opened up to everybody.

    Both have their pros and cons. I wish Myspace was a stable as Facebook, and would adopt some features. But there are users on Myspace that are not from the ‘lower classes.’

  • Great essay, danah — thanks for writing it. I suspect that one of the reasons it’s so difficult to talk about this is the huge number of intersecting dimensions, including the socio-cultural dimensions (the importance of Bourdieu’s perspectives shouldn’t hide the fact that there *are* strong class distinctions in the traditional sense), existing societal power structures (Liz’s point about how Facebook was designed to mirror them is excellent — and in a different way MySpace’s association with Fox is also important here), and the very real,technology and (contextual) usability differences. Much to think about here …


  • Manuel Lopez

    Hi Danah,

    I am a reporter for El Nuevo Dia, leading newspaper in Puerto Rico. We are developing a special issue focused on social interactions through Facebook and MySpace, and we got a hold of this essay, and we were amazed. We are kids fom the ages of 15-18 and we have seen these differences between Facebook and MySpace users before.

    We would like to speak to you to have a little more information for our article.

    Please write me an email to with your phone number before tommorow Friday June 6th, so we can interview you, since we are short in time.

    Thank You

  • Manuel Lopez

    Hi Danah,

    I am a reporter for El Nuevo Dia, leading newspaper in Puerto Rico. We are developing a special issue focused on social interactions through Facebook and MySpace, and we got a hold of this essay, and we were amazed. We are kids fom the ages of 15-18 and we have seen these differences between Facebook and MySpace users before.

    We would like to speak to you to have a little more information for our article.

    Please write me an email to with your phone number before tommorow Friday June 6th, so we can interview you, since we are short in time.

    Thank You

  • Padraig Murchadha

    Haven’t societies always been self-segregating? The reasons may have to do with socioeconomic factors, but the impetus to self-segregate has to do with personal comfort level or, as Kenneth Boulding put it, the image of self that underlies the actions of people, organizations, nations.

    It would be interesting to see how much the Web has breached class barriers and made social distinctions less compelling. Some comments here that draw from personal experience seem to indicate that it’s not quite the black-and-white (sorry for the pun) situation that your research seems to suggest.

    My own experience in the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Navy was that officers weren’t wanted–they were actually prohibited from entering–the Enlisted Men’s Club. It had to do with self-identity and comfort level.

  • Ronnie

    Have you read the Protestant Ethic? It’s great. You’ll love it. Your gut will tell you he’s right. But without any empirical data to support your hypothesis, your analyzing 10,000 MySpace pages puts you no closer than Weber would be in explaining this phenomena.

  • Ronnie

    Have you read the Protestant Ethic? It’s great. You’ll love it. Your gut will tell you he’s right. But without any empirical data to support your hypothesis, your analyzing 10,000 MySpace pages puts you no closer than Weber would be in explaining this phenomena.

  • You probably know this already, but the Pew data set has socioeconomic information:

    They don’t have the psychographic categories that you’re talking about, but they do have household income, education level of parents, race and ethnicity, and age.

    Like other folks commenting, I would be watching out for change. The demographics of Facebook changed rapidly when they opened it up. They are likely to change further with new applications. Maybe developers will add apps to Facebook that have more media and decoration features, so kids who want music and more pictures will be able to have those things on Facebook. Without more research, it’s hard to say how much of the relative preferences have to do with overall visual style, vs. features, vs. preferential attachment. Not to mention, sns’s are the subject of fashion, like physical clubs. What is considered “cool” will change in different social groups, too.

    I don’t see an increased concern about the creation of a caste system. People group themselves, that is nothing new. A person will go where their friends and perceived peers are. We’re talking about MySpace vs. Facebook, so digital divide access issues are factored out. The percent of teens who have sns profiles are the same across broad family income categories (over and under $50K family income).

    Free social network services have much less built-in stratification than: selective colleges; the ability to pay for higher education or private education; racial profiling in shopping areas and on the street; clothing; transportation; neighborhood safety… any number of factors in the real world that differentiate strongly by income inequality.

    There are a lot of very serious concerns about increasing inequality and decreased opportunity for social mobility in the US. And if I was looking for domains to worry about it, Facebook and Myspace would be somewhere near dead last.