There’s been plenty of buzz this week over a paper by U.C. Berkeley PhD. student Danah Boyd, who argues that Facebook users are more socioeconomically advantaged than those on MySpace. According to Boyd, the Facebook crowd “tend[s] 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.”
This conclusion isn’t too surprising given the evolution paths of the two sites. MySpace, launched in 2003 as a competitor to the then-dominant Friendster, built its popularity on the ability to post music files on individual profiles. It emerged in 2005 as the preeminent social networking site, and developed popularity as a means of self-promotion for careers ranging from adult film star to presidential candidate.
Facebook, meanwhile, was created in 2004 by an undergraduate at Harvard, and evolved as an invite-only site for college students. In 2006, when MySpace was boasting 46 million users a month to Facebook’s 9.3 million, the smaller site opened its doors to include all potential users (to some protests from its core market of undergrads, recent alums, and teens preparing for college). Only in the past few months has the network begun to creep up on MySpace in popularity and growth. As such, logic decrees that Facebook would emerge as the more academically-oriented of the two, with a greater draw for upwardly mobile teens headed for college — a disproportionate number of whom are also white and come from wealthier backgrounds. And that, it seems, is an issue far more worthy of study.