Posted by: Sam Carson | 29 June, 2007

Facebook or Myspace: a Class Division?

Danah Boyd is a doctoral candidate in the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley and has written a blog/essay studying the teen High School users of social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace. In this she sees a loose divide between the two, the more wealthy university bound students using Facebook and the less well off using MySpace.

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.

The reason for this division has risen out of Facebook’s origins at Harvard and exclusive university policy. This policy was relaxed in September last year, but until then, Facebook was targeted solely at American University students.

High school students at this time who were motivated toward University and had the means to go there worked hard to get a Facebook account. Those who weren’t bound for higher education didn’t know of Facebook, and were happy with MySpace.

Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only site. It slowly expanded to welcome people with .edu accounts from a variety of different universities. In mid-2005, Facebook opened its doors to high school students, but it wasn’t that easy to get an account because you needed to be invited. As a result, those who were in college tended to invite those high school students that they liked. Facebook was strongly framed as the “cool” thing that college students did. So, if you want to go to college (and particularly a top college), you wanted to get on Facebook badly. Even before high school networks were possible, the moment seniors were accepted to a college, they started hounding the college sysadmins for their .edu account. The message was clear: college was about Facebook.

There are other reasons for this, Ms. Boyd points to the aesthetic. MySpace feels garish and loud, where the Facebook interface is more calm and clean.

These teens are very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and “so middle school.” They prefer the “clean” look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is “so lame.” What hegemonic teens call gaudy can also be labeled as “glitzy” or “bling” or “fly” (or what my generation would call “phat”) by subaltern teens. Terms like “bling” come out of hip-hop culture where showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued. The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens.

The essay is very interesting to read, and at the end the methodology of the study is loosely explained. Also, the accompanying blog post is collecting comments rather quickly.


  1. […] in class as a factor in the memberships of the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, (previously summarized here) there is an interesting segment on how this affects the military. A month ago, the military banned […]

  2. […] More interesting is the demographics. Facebook may have started as University thing, but it is now taking off with the over 30 crowd. It’s layout and features appeal to […]

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