The Social Network heavy-hitter Battle Wages On!

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…. (click link below to go to Danah’s site & view her paper)

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.

apophenia: viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace

First of all– click that link to go to Danah Boyd’s site to weigh in if you wish.

Otherwise, here’s my ramble. Three funny things about this M v F thing:

a) A bunch of my mid-twenties friends in the UK just did this HUGE migration from myspace to facebook— several of which started a facebook group of their hate for facebook, and their wish for myspace to return to power.

b) I talked to three high schoolers– middle/upper class kids who have been on facebook and miss myspace. They told me they don’t really like either, but that they rather deal with myspace (because everyone is already on it) then facebook— and they mentioned something along the lines of not wanting to be so easily connected to their schools (I thought that was a funny note since both myspace & facebook link to school groups). Perhaps facebook looks too “pretty” or too structured? One can only guess.

c) Last Friday I had the pleasure of hanging with an 8 year old named Alexa at work, who skooled (yes, I spelled that correctly incorrect) me in Club Penguin, Nick.com (not Nicktropolis), and DXD (Disney). I have to write up my notes, because she was just a FIELD day of information. But, in regards to this conversation, one of the coolest things she said was this:

Uck, myspace. That place is lame.”

Well, lame wasn’t her exact choice, but for the blog it’s a bit more PC than her original choice. She’s an 8/9 year old who is the PRIME EXAMPLE of the riotous, stranger-danger world of the U10. She’s a classroom kid. She wants all her fun to be in a structured environment where she knows she’s protected, even though she thinks it’s funny if someone messes with the system– as long as it doesn’t directly interfere with her, her friends, or her moral structure (innocent wall-pushing, like spitballs in class at the crappy substitute).

She is at the age where she still regurgitates all parental information– but in a way that it’s her own (trying to sound like an adult). Mimicking responsibility at an age where responsibility is truly on the horizon. Myspace = danger, or so says parents, therefore, myspace = danger, or so says the well-raised, 8 year old with the strong moral core. HOWEVER, she can’t say it’s “dangerous” or “Scary” because that would make her look young. So what does she choose? An edgier adjective that makes her sound “too cool,” “smart,” and “strong.” Nice.

The other part of this that I found interesting was– her sister is 13 (a single year too young to be on myspace, but that’s for another discussion), and her sister posts INACCURATE information about herself to keep herself protected. Her friends know the REAL information, but her public identity is a farce– all of it, not just her fake-age to boost her onto the site. How interesting is that?

facebook40.png

p.s. I had this convo recently with Joi Podgorny about Myspace Vs Facebook. The migration from Myspace to Facebook has been going on for a few months now (ducks in a row: early users first, followed by the cool kids, and next comes the public– aka media’s attention, and then adults, etc). Now older chickadees are heading to Facebook (see the riff off of facebook in 80 years, cute. Thanks for the heads up mashable). Joi is square on that the UK’s BEBO will be the next social networking service to hit the spotlight. Why? Because it’s a solid blend of Myspace & facebook. Check it out. It’s worth a gander to anyone interested in what may or may not be the next best thing for the me-me-me-look-at-me crowd.

 

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