Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The New Digital Divide: MySpace vs. Facebook

A "blog essay" written this June got tech bloggers talking, and I just wanted throw in my two cents as a participant since 2004 in both. The essay, entitled "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace" by danah boyd, contends that Facebook is for the kids who are going to college with the money to do so and MySpace is for the kids who are lower-class outcasts:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

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. These are 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. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

This may be an extreme interpretation by boyd, but then again she's trying to make her point. Though she's looking at high school users, these differences may be more pronounced than for those a few years older like me who actually used both even at a time when Facebook was only for college kids.

I think most would agree such differences are inherent in the way the two sites started in the beginning. Facebook was geared for college kids, so it makes sense that Facebook still has a strong college-y connotation. This clean, more professional-ish image was also encouraged by the fact that you can't go graphically vomit on your Facebook page in the way that you can with Myspace (but that's changing do to all of those crazy apps).

On the other side, MySpace was geared toward Joe Anyuser so they could get as many people as possible on the site. Who else remembers a time when we were waiting to get our university added to Facebook ?! So already there was a sense of exclusivity with Facebook because back in the day you needed a valid college email to even create an account.

But not so anymore - I can see where there could be petty Facebook vs. MySpace issues in high schools where someone asks about a kid's MySpace profile and they say "Ugh yeah right - MySpace sucks. I'm on Facebook" (or even vice versa). I can see where social networking could be picked up as another way to make it us vs. them in terms of the cool vs. the outsiders like anything else, right next to what you wear, what music you listen to, etc.

Personally, I prefer Facebook for a variety of reasons, and I think most college kids would agree:
  • no ads on my page (yet!!) unless I put them there in the form of groups and apps I add
  • profiles that don't make my eyes bleed
  • there's no server lag where I'm waiting forever to do something because I'm on during peak hours
  • as of yet and as far as I know, phishers aren't stealing Facebook usernames and passwords. I've been burned twice by MySpace which ended up being embarrassing when everyone messaged me mad about the spam I had apparently been sending them through my account >.<
Note to Facebook: don't mess this up. You upset us when you let high schoolers join. You made it way worse with the stalker news feed. Admittedly, I'm a bit concerned about what will happen in terms of ads and corporate control when Facebook sells out. Will this be strike three?


cassandra said...

I love your insight on this article...wicked funny! I have to say that I was shocked that someone would make a class comparison on facebook users vs. myspace users. I think that people do need to keep in mind that facebook was created by and for college students, so naturally that puts the users in a different demographic category- but I don't think that it is necessarily limiting. I agree with you on the fact that I prefer Facebook more and only hope that they don't mess things up by adding advertisements on it :P

Jennifer said...

I really enjoyed your post. It's funny because the differences are very true of the Facebook versus Myspace users. I agree with both of you, I prefer Facebook for similar reasons. Plus on Facebook I don't receive friend requests from people I don't know, like on Myspace. I rarely even check my Myspace account now and when I do, I typically have new wall posts that are advertisements.

Megan said...

Good point, Jennifer - you get a lot of spam friend requests on MySpace that aren't even real people! (or they're bands). I hated when bands would post huge over-sized banners on my comments. :(

Thanks for commenting, gals!

A. Bueno said...

I liked Facebook because it was kinda plain. Now you can do more on it then you can on Myspace. All the crazy apps are sooo annoying. I think facebook has just become some timewaster, which, I'll admit it was one before, but now it is just candy for the ADD kid. I do think the comparison of users is interesting tho. But now that facebook has been open to the public I am sure that dynamic will change soon.

Benjamin said...

I still prefer facebook despite all the new stuff being put on it, but I'm starting to get a little irked.

mkeeganwatkins said...

This was a really great article, although I take argument with a few of the points made, (by the original author, not your commentary). That being said, it seems to me that ultimately the point is moot... eventually the Social-Networking Wars will have their victor, and as many have predicted, the browsers will probably when. Unlike social networking sites, browsers are used by every single user on the Internet, and are therefore the perfect candidate for maintaining those relationships.

Andrew said...

You make a good point and I agree with you about facebook. I also like your concern for what will happen to that gold mine of marketing information once facbook gets sold.

kassie! said...

Did anyone else laugh when someone would go as far out to lump people into class divisions determined by the websites they visit? It doesn't make sense in my head. There is no real quantitative data to justify her assumptions. I will say that I realize her article was posted on her blog and is not a real study, but the whole concept still seems far out there. I'll leave it at that since I haven't read through the rest of her blog.

And for the record, I prefer MySpace over Facebook. haha