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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responding to critiques of my essay on class

One month ago, I put out a blog essay that took on a life of its own. This essay addressed one of America’s most taboo topics: class. Due to personal circumstances, I wasn’t online as things spun further and further out of control and I had neither the time nor the emotional energy to address all of the astounding misinterpretations that I saw as a game of digital telephone took hold. I’ve browsed the hundreds of emails, thousands of blog posts, and thousands of comments across the web. I’m in awe of the amount of time and energy people put into thinking through and critiquing my essay. In the process, I’ve also realized that I was not always so effective at communicating what I wanted to communicate. To clarify some issues, I decided to put together a long response that addresses a variety of different issues.

Responding to Responses to: “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”

Please let me know if this does or does not clarify the concerns that you’ve raised.

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85 comments to responding to critiques of my essay on class

  • Ralph M.

    “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”.

    What is that about? what about the “The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids” why arn’t they also on myspace?, I mean you are generalising too much, and then you go on, and you say, “These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school”.

    That is just false and you know it, you are just saying that because you think that, because a large population of latinos don’t get instructed and have to work, and because “gangstas” are usually black and prefer to work, and are you using immigrants to once make reference to the latinos or people of color? I mean if that isn’t generalising I don’t know what is, well, it’s my point of view and I’m really… I don’t know, not angry, just disappointed once again by the american people (you see that I’m generalising).

    I don’t want to make this personal, even though I would really like to, because let’s face it you’re maybe not gonna read it, and if you do you won’t give a fuck, but I mean who the fuck uses “queer kids” to talk about gays for fuck sakes, it’s not a fucking plague!!

    Sincerly, The Mexican “queer kid”.

    P,S Please excuse the big words I use at the end of the comment, it’s just frustration of hearing this over and over again, oh and btw what the bloody hell do you know about freaking High School, it varies from region, honey.

    This comment makes no sence reading it again, but since I don’t give a shit I’m going to post it anyway :D

  • Anastasia G.

    I must say was surprised at the responses your blog got. The amount and the content of much of it. I think it has much to do with something that happened last night when i began reading the original. My sister had told me about your essay and I was curious so I ‘googled,’ found and began to read it. Halfway through – since I was using her laptop – my sisters asks me if I’m reading the whole thing. She looks incredulous and so do I. Am I reading the whole thing? Of course! Why wouldn’t I, if I wanted to be able to come to any conclusions? I love my sister but I wouldn’t be surprised if half the people who responded didn’t read the whole thing and/or ignored all warnings about the informality of a blog/the ‘inaccuracy’ of the terms used. I am not saying that half the people actually did this, I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised since I’ve only seen quotes from the first half of the essay. (:P)
    Much of what was in the essay, I already knew about and the implications of your study, I’d figured out but hadn’t voiced my opinions. I got a myspace first because my sister had one, because it was an alternative to facebook (i was waiting for my .edu before i got one) and because it was ‘the cool’ place to be online in my hs. (Now where have i heard that before lol) But, I haven’t been going there too much anymore, because:
    1) I shifted with the rest of my hs to facebook and it became the place where the ‘honors kids’ got together and discussed how they were procrastinating over their next AP English essay. No matter how boring this sounds, it was cool and I felt comfortable discussing college plans/admissions essays, NHS meetings and prom on facebook when myspace comments usually consisted of those annoying “Send this to 20 ppl who are your friends and blah blah blah,” or ppl I’d met on myspace talking about their lives.
    2) I was excited about college and couldn’t wait to meet other freshmen on facebook. Not that I couldn’t meet them on myspace but the myspace group for my school was a tad weird and topics for discussion where obviously meant for an older generation. (I’m admitting my youth here and my hesitancy to jump into convos about clubs and drinking)
    3) There was an exclusivity/safety about facebook that myspace never had. For one thing, you could be certain (well could have been) that any adults on facebook where associated with a college (while that definitely doesn’t guarantee safety, it is oddly comforting) whereas the only adults I’ve had contact with on myspace where usually 40-ish pervs trying to add me to their frienslist. I wasn’t scared but I was tired ad irked out.
    4) I hated seeing those “shave the legs/slap the belly/give Britney hair” ads. A few people i know are actually getting of myspace completely but most retain their accounts. I’m staying. Why? The music.
    I know it sounds like I’m saying the people who are on myspace don’t discuss school work and/or school related activities. Well that’s exactly what I’m saying because I’ve been there and I know who is on myspace and they aren’t the people i talk to on facebook.
    I’ll stick to facts here: My hs is divided into the ‘honors kids,’ (i think that is self-explanatory), the ‘good not-so-honors kids,’ ‘wangstas,’ (they pretend to be tough and black but when you live in a suburb in Westchester you can’t claim much hood), ‘the latinos/hispanics,’ (they tend to band together even though they could fit into any other groups) and the ‘emo kids’ (whose lives are allllllways filled with woe). We were all in myspace with our own little social networks but when facebook opened its doors to high schoolers, guess who moved and guess who stayed behind. Well I’ll just save you the trouble by telling you. The first two groups were the first to go and then the ‘wangstas’ split with half of them on facebook and the rest on myspace. I don’t think any group is good or bad but this is what happened in my school and each person has their own reason for moving or staying. I think the shift was unconscious and the division only happened when some people just weren’t going anywhere.
    Why is any one surprised or complaining? Facebook isn’t all good and Myspace isn’t all bad. Those same ppl who discuss school work still have 500+ pics of them at parties they shouldn’t have been in and I don’t know anyone from any of the groups in my school who isn’t going to college. I think everyone should just calm down and examine their values. Who you hang out with does not determine where you want to go. If you are a latino parent and expect you child to get a job after hs and your child is on myspace, then don’t get mad when ppl say that. It is not an insult to say a dead man is dead. And your kids aren’t staying there because they have no prospects or because they don’t want to go to school or because they don’t like facebook. They stay there because their friends are there which is only a problem if you don’t like their friends and in that case, too bad. The problem isn’t saying who is on myspace. The problem is acting like they shouldn’t be there. Like they’re bad or are degenerates because they are. The problem is kids making fun of other kids because they like something different and that has been going on long before the internet even existed. So instead of attacking someone who brought this fact to light (once again), why aren’t parents teaching their kids tolerance, manners and when to mind their own business. I understand that i am addressing different sets of parents (parents with the ‘hegemonic’ kids and the parents with the ‘subaltern’ kids) but I feel if there was more tolerance on both sides there wouldn’t be any sides at all. One step at a time. The ‘hegemonic’ kids should stop calling people ‘weird’ (i suppose that would include myself (i hate when that happens)) and the ‘subaltern’ kids should stop thinking that they are. Everyone is perfectly normal by ‘human’ standards but we all have different tastes and I would never call someone weird because they like sushi when i don’t.

    I’m a teenager and this is my opinion. I’m not sure if other hschoolers have responded to this blog but i think they should.

    This is really long… i wonder if can post so long a comment…
    Oh and by the way: {{hugs}} ^_^

  • Anastasia G.

    Oooooooooh!!! Something else I would like to add. Everyone seems to have a problem with names/terms used in the original essay. Have they stopped to consider the fact that these names weren’t engendered by the writer but by this society’s teens? Instead of attacking (i hate to repeat myself…sigh) the person who brought these terms to light, why don’t they start conducting mass funerals for the words and inviting their kids. (lol)
    If there is a problem (and there is definitely a problem) its roots seem to lie mostly with the name callers and if people have a problem with the names (and people obviously have a problem with the names (particular those given to the predominant myspace set(and who but the ‘good kids’ came up with those names))) then perhaps they should start taking a closer look at what their kids are saying. Once more: Tolerance! Manners!! And Mind Your Own Business!!!

    Btw, i read a couple of the other responses and I found one extremely funny. The parents of the kid with the ‘secret myspace’ account. I have tears in my eyes right now, it was so funny. I just learned from someone who tried to delete her myspace account that myspace actually asks you if you are a parent wanting to delete your child’s account because he/she created it against your wishes. I think that deserves a big: WOW.
    Can I just say that your 12yr old probably created the account to mess with you? lol. But I’m 17 and I still do things like that just to mess with my folks. Can I also say that by forbidding your child you are fostering the belief that myspace is bad and that the kids on it are bad? Can i say further that myspace’s bad reputation has more to do with the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (lol) than with actual bad kids? Like saying the Bronx is bad. (oooh, i wonder how many ppl will jump on me for that) Well since I am actually saying these things, I’ll stop with the questions but will have the temerity to give some advice.
    First: I am one of those kids that teachers and parents alike just love. I do all my school work on time and wonderfully, I have big plans to publish several novels, invent two things, create an organization to rival UNICEF, create an online, up to date, useful biology e-text book, and to become a world renowned neurosurgeon and I’m just plain sweet (lol) I also have a myspace account.
    Second: You sound like good, concerned parents who want to raise your child in the best possible way. It is unlikely that having a myspace account will ruin your child’s life when he is surrounding by such motivating factors as a stable home, a good school and well educated parents.
    My Advice: While it is unasked for, I would advice you to talk to your son and let him know you know he has the account and also let him know it’s ok (not to disobey but to be on myspace) because it is. That way you get to teach him to be ‘net-savvy,’ as my mom would say, to warn him all the time about predators and all the bad people who give myspace a bad name (because there are bad people online in general) and to generally keep an eye on what he’s doing. The more restrictions you place on him unreasonably, the more likely he’ll do something really bad behind your backs that you would have a reasonable reason for disallowing. We teens/preteens are far from stupid and can figure out what certain things lead to or why certain things are bad but we’re still growing up and we usually need you parents to lead us in the right direction. While we don’t like hearing it, we will undoubtedly do it if it is couched as a suggestion that does not imply our ignorance. Even though 12yr olds are generally ignorant about the darker side of the world (i know i was), they still like believing they know everything and you can’t prove them wrong because they get mad so all you have to do is guide, without forbidding, them until they do know what they need to know. A weekly episode of “How to catch a Predator,” would do wonders. Cheers!
    I seem to have gotten off topic…eh.

  • Grant

    When I first read your original essay (fifteen minutes before reading this clarification) I was pretty squarely in the “duh” camp. I mean, I even identified some of my own reactions in those of the “hegemonic” individuals (I myself got facebook in ’04 when I was a freshman in college and got a myspace a few months after that. I’ve since deleted the myspace account because of relative inactivity and the fact that it’s horribly coded). Even when I had a myspace account I felt like a lot of myspace pages were terribly, laughably ugly and even unreadable. I’ve never been a fan of garish or ostentatious displays, so this was immediately offputting.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to fit your work into my own experiences, since I’m not a teen anymore. But your work seems pretty obvious to me.

    And as for people who write death threats, or angry parents… does anyone actually believe that the work of one academic/blogger really has such an effect on their/their childrens’ lives? Parents and social groups have a much greater influence on childhood development than some blog article that, while well-written, was not all that widely read (even by those criticizing it, apparently). It’s all very inscrutable to me.

    Anyway, good work.

  • Stina

    :hugs: from me as well.

    I agree with what John Dodds said (July 26, 2007 02:55).

  • Dear Danah,

    First, I want to sincerely thank you for asking the right questions!
    I’ve seen some of the counter-arguments and comments made on your research on other blogs and websites and they are disappointingly weak… Many of them merely try to diminish the value of your findings using bad humour. (What bothers me even more is the fact they are the ones getting the most “credit”)

    As an internet entrepreneur, I’ve often observed that people perceive the internet as a phenomenon that is remote from reality. I believe it’s a misconception and eventually users as a mass will drag the realities of life into the virtual world (Nobody gets a second life ;-) )
    Bringing up the “social classes” issue in the context of social networks seems like the right thing to do. Social networks are by definition social, thus, there are no reasons to believe they will escape the segmentation that currently occurs in the real world.

    As part of my own professional research I opened accounts on both, Myspace and Facebook, although I personally favor Facebook (Facebook is the one I actually use) as I find it more relaxing and more practical. I think that it’s not that facebook is a better version of myspace in terms of social networking but rather that Facebook and Myspace distinguish themselves in their very essence and the way they allow their users to define themselves:
    On Myspace “who I am” as a user is defined by “what I am ,like and think”. To me it seems that users on myspace have a tendency to focus on a rather individualistic-self that may even be sometimes imaginary. The name says it all: MY Space. Furthermore, it looks as though the young users are more prone to expressing their love for idols, symbols and second-rate poetry.
    On Facebook “who I am” is rather defined by the “people I know”.
    It’s an environment were real life connections play a greater role. Users dont spend time inventing new personalities but rather focus on managing their real social relationships. This seems to fit better the lifestyle of the “hegemonic” class were networking is valued for professional and social purposes. On a different note, there seems to be a lot of unhealthy voyeurism and jealousy going on Facebook.

    From my own experience, I retain that there is an essential difference between the two social networking giants and it can be observed in the way users define themselves on each of them. After reading your article, I realized that this difference is perhaps the symptom of a clear social cut between the users of Myspace and Facebook.

    Waiting impatiently to read your new research… Thank you Danah…

    (Please allow me to apologize in advance in case I wrote something that is offensive to anyone)

  • Jeffrey

    Smart articles and enlightening. Thanks for the thought and sharing.

  • I have to say…in midst of finishing up my own dissertation but had jokingly stated I wanted to make my research on the why behind the rapid growth of facebook in middle east as opposed to myspace…..and , what I have found certainly touches up on the nature of your lively commentary. if you would like to talk about it, do give me a shout. I am not much of a public blogger. I am assuming that my contact info is listed….cheers,

    tanya

  • christine

    Thank you for your thorough study and your essay on MySpace and Facebook. I have 2 teenage stepsons. The 18yr-old son (then 16) was one of the reasons why I have a MySpace profile, while the younger one did not care to have a profile at that time. Now both the 18yr-old and the 14yr-old, are flocking to Facebook and subtly suggestred their discrimination against MySpace… I don’t even think they realized their subtle suggestion themselves… I do find your writing very intelligent and enlightening. It certainly clarified for me the differences between the two social sites and helped me emerge some new attitudes and ideas on how to deal with this. And I do find your response article very entertaining simply because I saw how many people misunderstood your intentions. Again–Thank you!
    {{hug}}

  • Just happened across your article, and I would like to say your observations confirmed my own suspicions about site preference and ‘class’. Although I attributed it to IQ-or maybe education…which on second thought may be a function of social position…would the fact that I am a 35 yr old college-educated Canadian have anything to do with my bias? Of course it would.
    I digress. Nice work.

  • Jan-Peter Onstwedder

    Thanks for writing both essays – I just read them after seeing them mentioned on Very Short List. I’m a 47 year old father of 11 and 14 year old daughters, in London, UK, and your work helps me to start thinking about the ‘same old issues’ of class etc in the internet age. Your quote that it is dangerous if people who are different don’t interact resonates with me and perhaps encouraging my kids to use SNS to create different experiences than they get at school is something to consider.

    Great stuff, keep it up.

  • Mattathias Modin

    The article and the response to critiques were both very interesting. I’ve been interested in how social conflict and status play out in an educational setting since I got into middle school, and this gave me some things to think about. It’s very worrying that what you call “hegemonic” and “subaltern” teens have become asscoiated by many with good and bad.

  • Mark Ritt

    I am always interested to read essays on ‘class’, particularly American essays.

    I grew up the son of immigrants – albeit not from Oakland. My father and mother both worked menial jobs from the day that I was born until the day they both died. I have no doubt that I would have qualified as one of the “subaltern” teens that the author appears so concerned about.

    And yet, I still enjoy theater, I still enjoy literature, I go to the cinema and not the movies, I strive to do better, I stayed in school and obtained a post-graduate degree – all values passed on by my very working-class parents. It wasn’t until several years of working on Wall Street at a six-figure salary and owning my own home that I ever considered myself as middle-class.

    As always, the (undoubtedly middle-class) author has appropriated the “good” values as “middle-class”, re-inforcing the usual cultural sterotypes and class prejudices. It’s hardly surprising then that teens see the world in equally simple terms.

  • Brooklyn

    I just wanted to add my support in for you. I was apparently extraordinarily late to the game and as such read both the original essay and the later clarification/extension at the same time. My reaction as I read the former was mostly one of “duh” interspersed with moments of “well I never thought about that, but that makes a lot of sense.” And I’d like to say I’m surprised by the misinterpretation and complete lack of any attempt to interpret or even read your essay by those wanking (in the internet sense, not the other) about it, but honestly I can’t say that I am.

    A tip of the hat to you: First for writing the essay to begin with, saying things about class, when in America the subject is in some ways more taboo that talking about race, and second for holding up so incredibly well under the storm and writing what may be he most calm, rational and helpful clarification post I’ve ever seen in any similar situation.

    I’m looking forward to reading the academic paper based in these ideas, no matter how long it takes to arrive.

  • Hai danah! I think your original blog was fascinating, and I can’t wait to read the eventual article. I can’t quite understand how anyone can see a citation that includes ‘blog essay’ and mistake the given piece for an academic article – pity how many journalists aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of Google Scholar! And as for taking ‘queer’ as a homophobic term… omfgn00bs. Some people really need a GLBT education.

    Anyhow, many props for the blog and most especially for having the dedication to do ethnographic research – definitely one of the hardest methodologies to use! Qualitative up, null-hypothesis-testing-methodolatry down. Yup.

  • Shawn G

    Awesome.
    I came upon your essay when I was trying to find out what the differences between MySpace and Facebook were, and I really thought it was a great essay. The second essay is just as good – congrats on keeping your cool! Although, I’m sorry you had to take the punches, is seems you got a conversation going and that is an awesome thing.

  • Thomas Pulliam

    Your essay on MySpace and Facebook contained a very good argument supplemented with a few examples and research compiled from various sources. Good job on making a clear connection with your thesis. However, You lose all credibility when you repeatedly state that “you don’t have the language for this” and “this is just your opinion” all throughout the essay. DUH! That is what an essay is, you are arguing your claim. Don’t discredit yourself before you make any points. It leads me to wonder why you would write at all. I’m leery to read your other essays because I view you as a week amateur.

  • stephane B.

    “bravo”

  • Mr. Stefano Fazzari

    Your response was clear and well said. Having worked in American public high schools for a few years, I am familiar with some of the issues you explored. Hopefully, those who read this response will take the time to do two things simultaneously: first, to actually read your material, and secondly, to spend a minute or two thinking about what they have read. Maybe they should try thinking while they are reading. I fear that this may be asking too much though.

    Ciao,

    SNF

  • Shannon E. Wells

    So much to say; I’m sure other people have already said -

    God, if you want to operate in the public sphere you have to put on emotional nuclear fallout protection and get behind lead sheeting, not merely an asbestos suit. It seems there is nothing like the internet to bring the a**hole out in people. This alone is worth its own sociological study – how anonymity and hence lack of repercussions allow people who aren’t motivated by an inner moral compass to turn off impulse control and do or say whatever they want. But I digress.

    I’m not an academic, but my schooling is in science. I very much enjoyed your article and I appreciated the fact that you were doing a qualitative, overall assessment of your obviously years-long research – BECAUSE I ACTUALLY READ IT :) I would personally very much appreciate your posting the citation for any journal articles you end up getting published on this. Sociology is hard because it’s so nuanced and emotionally charged. I’m sure you must realize that you can’t help but color your own interpretations, but we can only do so much about that – adjusting the cultural coloring comes with temporal distance (and often still screws it up).

    Not only are people on the internet lazy, but lots of people seem to have major trouble with reading comprehension, and they also get totally stuck on one little turn of phrase and just zero in and obsess about it. As a geek myself, I have noticed that geeks demand a precision to language that does not exist, and yes, they put too much trust in numbers and don’t accept that not everything can be quantified, particularly in the realm of human psychology (or probably biology in general). Yes we can count the number of pelvic thrusts of the bonobo but what does it MEAN??? :) I have frequently found myself in arguments that decay into the meta-argument, hinging around what the definition of this or that is and debating about the exceptions and it just drives me nuts.

    In short, buck up there lil cowpoke, and try not to let the bastiges get you down. You can’t please everybody anyway.

  • boris

    there’s no class division between myspace and facebook!!
    facebook’s business model was initially designed to explicitly target college students ONLY. just recently they opened up to include a wider client base.
    myspace was always open to everyone.

    it’s really that simple

  • max watts

    HI DANAH (BOYD)

    1/ FOUND YOUR ORIGINIAL “BLOG” ? ARTICLE ? ON THE AUSTRALIAN GREENLEFT DISCUSSION LIST (ON 2 AUGUST 2007). IT HAD BEEN POSTED BY STUART MONCKTON, WHO IS PROBABLY IN THE SOCIALIST ALLIANCE (OZ LEFT ACTIVIST).

    2/ I KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING ABOUT EITHER FACEBOOK OR MYSPACE – AND SADLY TIME-POOR (THAT’S WHY I ONLY ACCESSED A 2 AUGUST 2007 INCOMING ON 23 JAN 2008 !) AND (VERY) OLD, DOUBT I SHALL LEARN MUCH ABOUT THESE.

    3/ HOWEVER, I HAVE BEEN AND STILL AM WORKING WITH RITA – THE resistance inside the Armies – FOR OVER 40 YEARS – AND WHEN SCROLLING THRU YOUR ORIGINAL ARTICLE WAS STRUCK BY YOUR PARA RE THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE INTERNET PHENOMENA FOR GI’S.
    AND THE CLASS DISTINCTION (OFFICER/EM).

    ASKED THE ORIGINAL POSTING STUART MONCKTON FOR YOUR EDRESS, DID NOT KNOW NIX ABOUT YOU, BUT I LIKE YOUR STYLE AND THE RARE INTEREST IN GI’S.

    4/ SUBSEQUENTLY (DON’T KNOW IF/WHEN STUART WILL RESPOND) DID SUCCEED IN ACCESSING YOUR RESPONSE AND THEN THE COMMENTS.

    NO PROBLEMS WITH THE QUEER, ETC. IN FACT I REALLY LIKE YOUR LANGUAGE, ATTITUDE. PARTICULARLY SINCE I NOTE YOU ARE AN “ACADEMIC”
    (A WORSE DESCRIPTION, IN MY LINGO, THAN “QUEER” ! OR “LIBERAL”) (LANGUAGE ! LANGUAGE !)

    5/ I’VE SCROLLED THRU THE COMMENTS. FINE. BUT STRUCK THAT NONE, RPT NONE, PICK UP ON YOUR MILITARY ANALYSIS. PAR FOR THE COURSE !

    6/ ME ? I WAS IN THE TAIL END OF “OUR” GOOD WAR, THE ONE WHICH DID DEFEAT HITLER FASCISM. AND PRETTY ACTIVE AS A FRITA (FRIEND OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE THE ARMIES) IN SEVERAL LATER ONES. PARTICULARLY ALGERIA, VIETNAM. BUT NOT ONLY. IN ODD MOMENTS DID GO TO AND TEACH IN UNIVERSITIES, HERE, THERE. DOCTOR IN APPLIED GEOPHYSICS, BUT I ONLY GOT THAT DEGREE AFTER 5000 STUDENTS STRUCK THE FAC FOR 3 WEEKS AND THREW THE DEANS’ FURNITURE OUT OF THE WINDOW (IN PARIS, IN 1971) AH WELL. TIME ! TIME !

    YOU MIGHT STILL FIND OUR (DAVID CORTRIGHT, MAX WATTS) “LEFT FACE – SOLDIER UNIONS AND RESISTANCE MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ARMIES” – GREENWOOD 1991 (IT BASICALLY WAS WRITTEN IN 1977) IN SOME LIBRARIES, AMAZON !
    AMAZING.

    AND I’M THE ASIA CORRESPONDENT FOR the ‘gI sPECIAL” (AN ELECTRONIC DAILY READ IN IRAQ AND ELSEWHERE.. if interested, get from: thomasfbarton@earthlink.net

    INC
    MAX WATTS
    A FRITA

  • Ed

    Hey,

    I’m one of these people who objects to the fact that although facebook asks you what your political beliefs are, there is no ‘socialist’ option in the drop-down menu in which this selection is made. There are options for conservative, very conservative, moderate, liberal, very liberal, apathetic, libertarian or other. It seems strange to me that there should be an option as obscure as ‘libertarian’ or indeed as abstruse as ‘moderate’ and yet not one as widespread as ‘socialist’. However, before I read your article I didn’t realize that the social (and no doubt political) divide between facebook and myspace users was so pronounced, and so now perhaps I think that perhaps the reason that there is no socialist option on facebook might be down to the more ‘Hegemonic’ people might be more right-wing, and so perhaps there is less demand for it.

    I’m interested now as to how far the theories you put forward are true for the UK (where I live) aswell. I wonder if the divide is as pronounced here as you claim it is in the US.

    Regards,
    Ed

  • JFK

    I liked your essay a lot. My ten cents worth is that you are right on the money. I actually think that different youth cultures are very class based, and we in Britain don’t mind talking about it (unlike you Americans). For example, goths and emos are middle class, while chavs and squares are working class. Some of the violence between these subcultures is class related, with working class chavs attacking middle class goths:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Lancaster

    It would be interesting to see if the youth suicide cult in Wales, UK, is a lower class MySpace thing for poor, uneducated people with nothing to lose:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=509727&in_page_id=1770

    They all knew each other on Bebo, the new Myspace? I certainly know some had myspace profiles, no mention of Facebook at all, so your thesis holds. These Brit lower class youths really have so little to live for.

    One thing you miss is that different young people have different IQ levels, just like adults. Professors don’t mix with janitors, so why should college kids mix with small-town thugs and deadbeats in manual jobs?

  • tony williamson

    I have one thing to say about your article,very well written and spoke from the heart,keep it up buddy

  • MARS

    I came across your essay while doing a search about a quote from Helen Keller about, “. . .how the social class system controls peoples opportunities in life . . .” I found the essay informative and helpful, as my dear granddaughter had recently sent me an invitation to FaceBook. She is a mixture of the hegmonic teen rebelling with hidden actions and a subaltern teen who, until recently, had little chance of ever going to college or improving her “class” status.

    I fortunately missed all the MSM coverage, so {{hugs}} to you and keep up the good work.

  • MrsVeteran

    Woo! I’m late to the party but I just came across the essay and your response to critiques. My first thought on reading your response was to giggle and think about how similar the situation seemed to that of releasing open-source software. Suddenly, a bunch of people are yelling about bugs even when the documentation clearly states that the software is intended to function in that way. (“It’s not a bug: it’s a feature.”)

    I really appreciated your discussion of qualitative vs quantitative research. This is an area that many people don’t consider. (And, of course, both types of researcher often have their own prejudices about which is the One True Way. I lean toward quantitative myself.)

    At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed reading both the essay and the response. I hope you translate the essay into academicese and publish it.

    *hugs*

  • Kate

    Your response has not addressed what I see to be the most frustrating aspect of your original essay: your implied correlation of unconventionality, creativity and even intellectuality with socioeconomic disadvantage, as in this statement:

    “MySpace is still home for … 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… MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.”

    So let me get this straight. You’re actually implying that geeks are mostly from families whose parents didn’t go to college? And that they are expected to get a job when they finish high school?

    To add a qualitative generalization of my own, what is “hegemonic” in HS often becomes downwardly mobile after college. The frat boy who wears Abercrombie and Fitch just doesn’t have the smarts or the drive to go beyond the typical professional lifestyle that his parents worked so hard to attain. Conversely, the true elites of society were often “freaks and geeks,” but of a different kind than your MySpace “art fags.” Instead, they belonged to a middle-to-upper class family, with college-educated parents. They were aware, intelligent, ambitious and the mindless popularity game probably bored them.

    Ironically, you make my point very well with your example of Bill Gates and yourself. I doubt that the majority of American leaders and cultural elites were jocks or preps in HS.

    On the whole, while your “hegemonic teen” may indeed typify a social value hierarchy among the 12-19 set, this social order does NOT necessarily correlate with the intended target of your essay, “American Class Divisions” at large. I find it strange that you would make a connection between “the popular kids” in HS and successful Americans in general.

    Otherwise it is a very depressing world we live in–no one ever gets out of high school. And thank God, that isn’t the case!

  • Though I disagree with several of your points, I am going to address some of your information in my Sociology 101 classes. It would be interesting for students to look at these observations through Symbolic Interactionist and Conflict perspectives. This article gives new examples to describe labeling theory and critical issues of race and class consciousness.

  • classism in utah

    dana,

    I quickly read through your blog essay and your response to the responses. Interesting reading and lots of it. hugs!

    Junior High School never prepared me for a very grown up loss of friendships and community.

    Please know, I do not make a cause-effect case for my experience with classism and the deterioration of my mental health. They were coincident. As I understood it and as my psychiatric treatment as an adult was ongoing, regaining mental health and my intelligence and mental firepower was most effectively accomplished by taking responsbility for myself and not to blame situations or groups.

    I am 63, since age 22 living in rural Utah. I grew up in the middle-class Protestant 50′s and 60′s of Nebraska,attending college in Kansas, and Iowa, finishing my degree at University of Utah in ’72. Starting in ’89 I have had friendship and much fondness amongst a group of all women, up to 8 years younger than myself, and all having outdoor experience. In ’93, I experienced the beginnings of a severe emotional decline coincident with the convergence of an incident on a many day backpacking trip in Grand Canyon with a major episode of my illness of clinical depression. I lost those friendships and my community on that day but I held onto some semblence of it until I finally let it go this past year,’08. I always thought the dynamic of the group was a combination of variables: all women, my medical condition of depression, my personality and habit toward timidity and shyness, and that I was in a regional culture I didn’t give its due. The fondness and closenss of friendship falsely seemed adequate in dealing with any life or death problems.

    Perhaps I “jumped class” when I challenged the wise, reasonable woman of majority utah religious heritage. It was all very subtle and the workings of conformity, and peer pressure stayed afloat as I rejected it.

    Over the past 15 years, it has been a situation of failure on my part to communicate with the group and to effectively defend myself, as I was finding myself on the outside of all norm,being excluded a little more every year.

    In ’99 perhaps I “jumped class” a second time when I divorced from my marriage of 30 years, began 5 years of psychiatric care for my illness, started living alone and working in service jobs, after years of a stay at home Mom raising two beautiful children and helping my ex build a successful business. After the split, I continued to live in my home on an acreage in beautiful Southern Utah that allowed me to futher my connection to the natural world and companionship with my dogs. I did well for myself, in the past 4 years I’ve started a business that I intend to see to its fullest potential, all things willing, hopefully by age 72.

    Interestingly though, my growing success and ability to take care of myself wasn’t enough to win back my women friends. I am an adult though, and able to walk away from a group sitaution that I choose not to kiss up to. Teenagers are not so fortunate to have the same kind of say over their social lives.

    Yes, I would agree when you say that in the US we find it difficult to talk about class: I do think that concerning.

    I wonder what kind of data there is on the emotional and physical toll class divisions takes on modern day teens.

    Thanks dana, for all of your big efforts and continuing work to study teens.

  • classism in utah

    dana,

    I quickly read through your blog essay and your response to the responses. Interesting reading and lots of it. hugs!

    Junior High School never prepared me for a very grown up loss of friendships and community.

    Please know, I do not make a cause-effect case for my experience with classism and the deterioration of my mental health. They were coincident. As I understood it and as my psychiatric treatment as an adult was ongoing, regaining mental health and my intelligence and mental firepower was most effectively accomplished by taking responsbility for myself and not to blame situations or groups.

    I am 63, since age 22 living in rural Utah. I grew up in the middle-class Protestant 50′s and 60′s of Nebraska,attending college in Kansas, and Iowa, finishing my degree at University of Utah in ’72. Starting in ’89 I have had friendship and much fondness amongst a group of all women, up to 8 years younger than myself, and all having outdoor experience. In ’93, I experienced the beginnings of a severe emotional decline coincident with the convergence of an incident on a many day backpacking trip in Grand Canyon with a major episode of my illness of clinical depression. I lost those friendships and my community on that day but I held onto some semblence of it until I finally let it go this past year,’08. I always thought the dynamic of the group was a combination of variables: all women, my medical condition of depression, my personality and habit toward timidity and shyness, and that I was in a regional culture I didn’t give its due. The fondness and closenss of friendship falsely seemed adequate in dealing with any life or death problems.

    Perhaps I “jumped class” when I challenged the wise, reasonable woman of majority utah religious heritage. It was all very subtle and the workings of conformity, and peer pressure stayed afloat as I rejected it.

    Over the past 15 years, it has been a situation of failure on my part to communicate with the group and to effectively defend myself, as I was finding myself on the outside of all norm,being excluded a little more every year.

    In ’99 perhaps I “jumped class” a second time when I divorced from my marriage of 30 years, began 5 years of psychiatric care for my illness, started living alone and working in service jobs, after years of a stay at home Mom raising two beautiful children and helping my ex build a successful business. After the split, I continued to live in my home on an acreage in beautiful Southern Utah that allowed me to futher my connection to the natural world and companionship with my dogs. I did well for myself, in the past 4 years I’ve started a business that I intend to see to its fullest potential, all things willing, hopefully by age 72.

    Interestingly though, my growing success and ability to take care of myself wasn’t enough to win back my women friends. I am an adult though, and able to walk away from a group sitaution that I choose not to kiss up to. Teenagers are not so fortunate to have the same kind of say over their social lives.

    Yes, I would agree when you say that in the US we find it difficult to talk about class: I do think that concerning.

    I wonder what kind of data there is on the emotional and physical toll class divisions takes on modern day teens.

    Thanks dana, for all of your big efforts and continuing work to study teens.

  • classism in utah

    dana,

    I quickly read through your blog essay and your response to the responses. Interesting reading and lots of it. hugs!

    Junior High School never prepared me for a very grown up loss of friendships and community.

    Please know, I do not make a cause-effect case for my experience with classism and the deterioration of my mental health. They were coincident. As I understood it and as my psychiatric treatment as an adult was ongoing, regaining mental health and my intelligence and mental firepower was most effectively accomplished by taking responsbility for myself and not to blame situations or groups.

    I am 63, since age 22 living in rural Utah. I grew up in the middle-class Protestant 50′s and 60′s of Nebraska,attending college in Kansas, and Iowa, finishing my degree at University of Utah in ’72. Starting in ’89 I have had friendship and much fondness amongst a group of all women, up to 8 years younger than myself, and all having outdoor experience. In ’93, I experienced the beginnings of a severe emotional decline coincident with the convergence of an incident on a many day backpacking trip in Grand Canyon with a major episode of my illness of clinical depression. I lost those friendships and my community on that day but I held onto some semblence of it until I finally let it go this past year,’08. I always thought the dynamic of the group was a combination of variables: all women, my medical condition of depression, my personality and habit toward timidity and shyness, and that I was in a regional culture I didn’t give its due. The fondness and closenss of friendship falsely seemed adequate in dealing with any life or death problems.

    Perhaps I “jumped class” when I challenged the wise, reasonable woman of majority utah religious heritage. It was all very subtle and the workings of conformity, and peer pressure stayed afloat as I rejected it.

    Over the past 15 years, it has been a situation of failure on my part to communicate with the group and to effectively defend myself, as I was finding myself on the outside of all norm,being excluded a little more every year.

    In ’99 perhaps I “jumped class” a second time when I divorced from my marriage of 30 years, began 5 years of psychiatric care for my illness, started living alone and working in service jobs, after years of a stay at home Mom raising two beautiful children and helping my ex build a successful business. After the split, I continued to live in my home on an acreage in beautiful Southern Utah that allowed me to futher my connection to the natural world and companionship with my dogs. I did well for myself, in the past 4 years I’ve started a business that I intend to see to its fullest potential, all things willing, hopefully by age 72.

    Interestingly though, my growing success and ability to take care of myself wasn’t enough to win back my women friends. I am an adult though, and able to walk away from a group sitaution that I choose not to kiss up to. Teenagers are not so fortunate to have the same kind of say over their social lives.

    Yes, I would agree when you say that in the US we find it difficult to talk about class: I do think that concerning.

    I wonder what kind of data there is on the emotional and physical toll class divisions takes on modern day teens.

    Thanks dana, for all of your big efforts and continuing work to study teens.

  • Hi, Dana. Fascinating article, and equally (perhaps more) fascinating response to all the critiques!

    You mentioned the general difficulty that Americans have talking about class, and I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t plow through all the comments, so someone may already have mentioned it, but one good book to read on this topic is “The Imperial Middle” by Benjamin DeMott. It’s not the most rigorous study out there, and he clearly has a POV to push, but it’s still a worthwhile read:

    http://www.amazon.com/Imperial-Middle-Americans-Think-Straight/dp/1557100233

  • Dana,
    I have just read through both your articles. Brilliant!
    The worldwideweb needs you to be exactly who you are. Thank you.

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