Just came across a very cool article Social Networking and Class Warfare over on Newsweek. I was alerted of the article on friend and colleague Nancy Flanagan’s blog Teacher in a Strange Land.

Nancy says,

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."West

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?


5 Responses to “Social Networking and Class Warfare”

  1. Artichoke August 9, 2007 at 6:52 am #

    If you are thinking about the reliability and validity of these claims you will probably enjoy Language blog on – Language and identity and Nerdcore: Runnin with my beta cuz I’m takin chances

  2. Rick Weinberg August 9, 2007 at 8:58 am #

    I have got to say, you have written another great post. I’m not sure its possible to articulate the written word, but you have done it.

    I’m not sure what this says about me. I don’t have either a Facebook or a MySpace account. I guess if I had to choose one, I would choose Facebook now, basically because of what you said in your comments.

    I’ve heard you say something like this about Worlds of Warcraft: “You might not use it but your kids are.” Is this a reason to get a Facebook or MySpace account? I give my oppinion about this a bit more on my blog.

    I guess I have never found a huge justification for social networking sites in education. My thoughts are changing due to Twitter. Not only am I learning things from Twitter by “following” people like you and Will Richardson, I feel I am reinforcing my learning “tweeting” things that I have learned. Basically, my thinking is changing.

    • Miranda November 28, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

      For me the distinction is filary simple: FB is personal (communicating with people I already know), TW is professional (engaging in lightweight and relatively non-hierarchical interactions with people of professional expertise, insight and interest to me). While there’s some occasional overlap between the two, that’s kinda how it goes, for all the good reasons in the linked article. 6 months ago I was a twitter sneerer, now I find that its a very valuable 15-20 minutes a day.

  3. Julie Marie August 10, 2007 at 7:46 pm #

    Your posting made me think. Both of my teens have told me that MySpace is dead, they both deal only in FaceBook. Yes, one is going to college in the fall, and the other goes to a specialized high school in NYC. It’s so refreshing (depressing?) to be reduced to a “digital stereotype”! I am waiting to see the research on urban youth. I am an intern at a high school library where the kids use an “urban” site. This is a work in progress.

  4. Ron August 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm #

    Question: Is there a social networking site for teachers that is reaching anywhere near a critical mass? If not, will there ever be? Just curious what you thought about it…