Myspace and Facebook recreate class divide, Boyd says

By Malena Amusa Jun 27, 2007

Online social networks are under scrutiny these days. Primarily because they boast millions of users, many young, who willingly post very personal information about their lives online. Most recently, two of the largest networks, MySpace and Facebook, have been accused of replicating class divides in America. vcorral, an intern at the Applied Research Center and senior at UC-Berkeley, reported for RaceWire:

This week, Danah Boyd, a PhD candidate at UC-Berkeley posted an essay, “Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and MySpace.” In it, she presents her research findings on the different types of kids populating the two well-known Social Network Sites (SNS). She finds that while some teens primarily use MySpace, others primarily use Facebook, and that this social “fragmentation” she sees occurring among teens over the past six months, is motivated by, get this…socio-economic class differences. This, she concludes, after analyzing 10,000 MySpace profiles, interviews with 90 teens in 7 states, and research into users’ high school data. According to Boyd, MySpace has solidified itself as an SNS for Latino teens, alternative kids, punks, gangstas, queer kids, and even those from the enlisted ranks of the military. This group of users is characterized primarily by “kids whose parents didn’t go to college, [and] who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.” Facebook on the other hand — which was originally created for college students — has become a platform for high school students with college aspirations to join the “in” crowd. These kids tend to be primarily white, and with families who emphasized going to college, or in high school terms, “preps and jocks.” Boyd discovers that a lot of teens chose either MySpace or Facebook as a rejection of each other’s groups’ values.

So Boyd uses college-education and whiteness as indicators of class because class is about who you have access to, she writes, not necessarily income. So she lumps colored people and queers with MySpace because apparently these groups have to make more alternative networks. This study is interesting, though I’m skeptical, because Boyd’s class theory doesn’t go far enough to describe how race is a tool of agency or dis-agency. But it’s worth a read. What do you think? It also reminds me of a friend’s report about racism and online dating sites. Read Wendi Muse in, "Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training," where she finds:

Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.