Facebook & MySpace: The Social Divide

This morning I stumbled across a fascinating post written by Danah Boyd from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The post drew on a body of work that she has undertaken, exploring race and class in social media. There are so many ideas and insights contained in her draft-paper that I can’t do it justice in one post; but here are a couple of key points that caught my attention.

Idea one: Social media preferences reflect pre-existing social divisions

Danah Boyd: While neither MySpace nor Facebook are explicitly defined in terms of race, they are organized by race. Most participants self-segregate when connecting with their pre-existing networks without being fully aware of the social divisions that unfold… In choosing to go where their friends were, teens began to self-segregate along the same lines that shape their social relations more broadly.

“My school is divided into the honors kids, the good not-so-honors kids, wangstas, the latinos/hispanics, and the emo kids. We were all in MySpace with our own little social networks but when Facebook opened its doors to high schoolers, guess who moved and guess who stayed behind… The first two groups were the first to go and then the 'wangstas' split with half of them on Facebook and the rest on MySpace.” – Anastasia

“The higher castes of high school moved to Facebook. It was more cultured, and less cheesy. The lower class usually were content to stick to MySpace. Any high school student who has a Facebook will tell you that MySpace users are more likely to be barely educated and obnoxious.”
– Craig

Idea two: Facebook from the context of White Flight

Danah Boyd: One provocative way of reflecting on the networked movement from MySpace to Facebook is through the lens of “white flight.” The term “white flight” refers to the exodus of white people from urban American centers to the suburbs during the 20th century… Facebook’s origin as a gated community and parents’ belief that the site is private and highly monitored reflect the same values signalled by the suburbs.

“It’s not really racist, but I guess you could say that. I’m not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever.”

– Kat

“[Facebook] kind of seemed safer, but I don't know like what would make it safer, like what main thing. But like, I don't know, it just seems like everything that people say, it seems safer.”
– Tara

This is a beutifually written peice of work, that certainly takes a deeper approach to market research. If you have some spare time, I highly reccommend you check out the full draft-paper here:
http://www.danah.org/papers/2009/WhiteFlightDraft3.pdf

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say its based on race but rather education. I'm Latin and I was on facebook months before my white friends. It seems like most JC students have myspace and once they get to university they move to facebook since that is where their new colleagues are at.

Nick Black said...

Hi Anonymous,

You may be right. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a range of factors have influenced the movement (educational, psychological etc).

Having said that, you can't ignore much of the language used by Danah Boyd's interviewees. To that end I think she may have uncovered an important, previously overlooked, piece of the puzzle.