Posted by: Sam Carson | 29 June, 2007

The Class of MySpace and Facebook, Part II: Military Divisions

In PhD student Dinah Boyd‘s very interesting article on divisions 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 MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. I can’t help but wonder if the reason for this goes beyond the purported concerns that those in the military are leaking information or spending too much time online or soaking up too much bandwidth with their MySpace usage.

This might be something to do with containing negative feelings of the Iraq war, Ms. Boyd explains (paragraph broken down by me).

MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a significant shift has occurred but it was one of those observations that just made me think.

And then the ban happened. I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school.

Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?

Interesting seeing this collision between the politics of recruitment and the power of communication.

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