“Good” kids gravitate towards Facebook; outcasts gravitate to MySpace, according to PhD candidate Danah Boyd.
Boyd’s hypothesis simple. MySpace has a reputation as being ”bad”, while Facebook, on the other hand, is all about going to college, and the values associated with getting an education. As a result, the two sites attract kids from different social economic groups.
“[In the early days teens] were told that MySpace was bad while Facebook was key for college students seeking to make friends at college,” explains Boyd in her 4000 word Marxist tract.
So who, according to Boyd, is on Facebook?
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 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.
And what about MySpace?
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.
Here I was thinking that MySpace was cool.
Anyone’s who’s actually used MySpace and/or Facebook will know that there’s an element of truth to what Boyd is saying, and while she’s guilty of making some sweeping generalizations in her essay, she’s found a lot of support on the blogosphere.
The co-founder of Salon, Scott Rosenberg, for example, had this to say:
“If you spend any time on these services you can find plenty of anecdotal support for her analysis … For teenagers trying to figure out who they are, the choice of social networking site has become one more agonizing crossroads of self-definition,” wrote Rosenberg.
However, while Boyd’s essay has attracted a lot of attention, her ideas are hardly revolutionary. Take her argument out of its Marxist context, where the emphasis is on class, and put it into a “free market” context, and it becomes an argument about user choice.
In the same way that some kids drink Cola, and others drink Pepsi, some kids will use MySpace, while others will prefer Facebook. What’s wrong with that?