It seems as though Facebook is the social networking platform for preppies and strivers, while MySpace attracts burnouts, rebels and working class moms. There’s a scholarly study to support these assertions, done by Danah Boyd of UC Berkeley, who finds intriguing evidence that in everything from page design to friend lists, social networkers stick to their own kind.
While conducting an ethnographic research on social network sites since 2003, Danah analyzed over 10,000 MySpace profiles, spent over 2000 hours surfing and observing what happens on MySpace, formally interviewed 90 teens in 7 states with a variety of different backgrounds and demographics. She uses ethnographic techniques to observe teens behavior: ride buses, hang out at fast food joints and malls, talks to parents, teachers, marketers, politicians, pastors, and technology creators. During her investigations, she was informed about the switch to Facebook: teens started telling her about how they were leaving MySpace to join Facebook or joining Facebook as their first social network site.
Danah Boyd's Findings
Danah lays it out like this, "The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes and other 'good' kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college." She also contends that, "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. It is the preferred digital hangout for outsiders—burnouts, punks, emos, Goths and gangstas. In addition, she says, Hispanic and immigrant teens are more likely to choose MySpace."
Facebook didn't comment, but MySpace founders Tom Anderson and Chris De Wolfe were eager to disagree with Boyd's findings. Boyd writes, "The division around MySpace and Facebook is just another way in which technology is mirroring societal values."
Jessica Cantarell posted an interesting piece before the study on DEN News with views from both sets of users. "Both sites aim to serve the same basic purpose: creating communities and connecting people with common interests. Registered users on both sites can benefit socially, professionally or romantically due to the availability of information on the large population of users."
Hmmm... like many of my readers, I am on both. Two of my kids are on both and two are just on Facebook. It is common knowledge that Facebook collects all your information and sells it, and some say MySpace exploits and debases American culture. The comments on Digg have been just as varied.
So what is your take? Do you agree with Boyd that your social networking site can tell as much about your class status as where you shop or the car you drive?