MySpace v. Facebook: The Class Divide

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.


kentavos

A continued disproportionate growth rate would be unremarkable as well, since new users would likely be recruited from the current base of users.

If anything, the difference showcases how de facto segregation applies itself in socioeconomic terms, not just race.

neverknowsbest

I'm glad that at least one site has taken a reasoned look at the hubbub around this paper. It seems like everyone's jumping on the class divide issue without looking at the exceedingly obvious explanation.

frank-gilroy

You know, as a parent I've been pretty concerned about Myspace and the kids my children meet and talk to there. I just caught myself considering telling them that I was going to block myspace from the router and suggest Facebook. But in the small rural area we're in, "all of the other kids", are on myspace. Hmmm... what to do, what to do ...

jeffthecheff

Facebook was made for college students, so most people on facebook either went to college, are in college, or are planning on going to college.

Myspace was made for everyone, and it seems like most people on myspace are in high school, or are adults who weren't in college when facebook was invented.

zbicyclist

Isn't this natural evolution in marketing, AKA segmentation or domination of particular niches?

Cars: pretty obvious here.
E-mail addresses: what's your first impression of somebody using
aol.com
juno.com
yahoo.com
umich.edu

or somebody who shops at Safeway vs. Whole Foods?

It's sort of a big "so what". It's important if you own Facebook or MySpace and are trying to make a buck out of it, but otherwise a yawn.

discordian

I suggest odds are high that they will be one entity one of these days so, while it's an interesting observation, it's a short term issue.

Econ 101

This assertion is indeed true;

Facebook originated as a way for college students to socialize with each other, while MySpace originated as a way for general individuals (ages 15-35) to socialize with others. In other words, Facebook was initially more exclusive while MySpace was more of a social handicap. As time went on, Facebook became more mainstream to draw more users. Nevertheless, its roots are still intact and the website is constructed with this influence. For example, friends are categorized by their networks, which for the most part revolve around each person's university (or alma mater). On the other hand, MySpace is not organized at all in this exclusive manner. With this in mind, when people who aren't from a scholastic network join Facebook they are immediately in their own person listing. Therefore people like this join MySpace where everyone is listed equally.

In conclusion, facebook is scholastically oriented and caters to individuals who feel the same way about their social networks, while MySpace is a socializing service for individuals who care less about scholastic backgrounds (and those individuals tend to be less socioeconomically inclined)

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saturninesylph26

Facebook is a staple of the colliegate lifestyle nowadays. Not having one can make you look out of the loop (plus you'd never see the photos people post of you!), whereas having a myspace is more of a social handicap in college. In high school, there was myspace. My mainly white middle-class friends and I all ditched myspace after senior year, upgraded to facebook, and now can keep in contact with all our college friends this summer with no real issues.

Facebook also has a lot more privacy options. For example, if people were to search for me with respect to my network on facebook, they might get my name as a result, but my picture would be replaced by a question mark and they wouldn't even be able to think of seeing my profile or any of my contact information.

Plus, on facebook, you get to poke people.
And really, who doesn't like that?

I think I'll go on facebook right now...

Russell

I believe that danah's name is not capitalized, actually.

http://www.danah.org/name.html

googler

Well I think that this is just bill gates attempt at capitalizing on all the current myspace users to migrate over to facebook where he can bilk the advertisers on googles (government) network of advertisers yet again.

These sites never seem to convert since their user base is so young they don't even have a credit card. So it would be difficult to monetize this type of traffic. But what does google care their just in the write off business not making actual money business.

http://www.yourseoconsulting.com/ goes into this further.

LynnMNguyen

Thank god for such a remarkably poised response. I similarly made this point on the original authors website. I cannot stand how she is actually getting press for such an obvious observation. How about a paper on what can be done blur the lines of classes ...or something substantive.

egretman

Facebook users are more socio-economic advantaged than Myspace users. This is so not news. It would only be news if the researcher had found otherwise.

College is more and more for the upper classes in America. Several reasons for that. But consider the special case of America's selective colleges. Remember the Cornell professor that showed only 10% of students were from divorced parents?

As America declines economically in relation with the rest of the world, we are dividing ourselves up more and more along economic lines.

This is all a law of economics. I'm suprised that I am the one that has to point this out on an economics blog.

sasha

If you read her paper and go, "of *course* facebook caters to richer, whiter, and more mainstream kids," then you're the reason the paper is so successful. Her analysis makes perfect sense, and her conclusions seem perfectly obvious. but no one had bothered to draw those conclusions before. Her success is in being the first person to articulate a trend that everyone could've described if they'd stopped to think about it.

frankenduf

so just change the names to MyHood and Vogue

ilar769

Did you guys see her follow up posts? This is not a "paper" (at least not the type you see in academic journals or the like) and she doesn't have anything other than her own personal experiences to back up her claims. Everything has been blown entirely out of proportion, and I'm surprised to see this blog falling for it.

http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/06/27/dear_esteemed_m.html

bhasday

I will preface my post by admitting that while I have heard about this "paper" a few times I have not yet had a chance to read it for myself. However, while I tend to agree that it is common sense that Facebook would be more academically-oriented while MySpace would be less so as a result of the differing ways in which they originated, I think two interesting demographics to look into would be people who graduated from college before Facebook was created (because their perception of things like the importance of academic-based relationships might be important to their choice of MySpace or Facebook) and younger people who were not yet in college when Facebook opened itself to everyone (because they would be making the same type of choice as the above-mentioned group regarding the ways in which they associated themselves with others). Perhaps by drawing data from solely from these two groups and ignoring the glut of Facebook users who joined while it was exclusively for college students better conclusions might be drawn about the ways people use online networking sites to make associations.

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Jon Banay Conotous

This was perplexing.

facebook

facebook is really a great site, but there are some shortcomings in the Internet environment for disabled insanlarida think that major sites like Facebook can do something like that in my opinion it the perfect hand atmalilar Up breathe again facebook

kentavos

A continued disproportionate growth rate would be unremarkable as well, since new users would likely be recruited from the current base of users.

If anything, the difference showcases how de facto segregation applies itself in socioeconomic terms, not just race.

neverknowsbest

I'm glad that at least one site has taken a reasoned look at the hubbub around this paper. It seems like everyone's jumping on the class divide issue without looking at the exceedingly obvious explanation.