MySpace vs. Facebook: Who Cares?

Danah Boyd published an article comparing the demographics of MySpace and Facebook. The conclusion? Geeks, jocks, and preps head to Facebook. Stoners, goths, and bangers head to MySpace.

So… Essentially all cliques are steadily moving into personal and social publishing spaces. And they’re finding where they feel most comfortable.

facebookers vs myspacers

I’m not seeing the problem. Do we really expect the various groups of kids to all flock to the same communities online? It sure doesn’t happen offline.

The key is that they’re reading and writing much more than they would have been without becoming active in online publishing. That’s fantastic, no matter where they do it. I’m quite sure there are large groups of kids who are most active in other online communities like Nexopia and the like. So what? The goal isn’t to collect them all into one big bin, but to let them find their voices, however they need to do that.

The take away message for me isn’t that there is some socioeconomic segregation of youth, but that we need to remember that not all youth hang out at the same place. This isn’t new. It’s been going on for decades (centuries)? but us “web 2.0″ types seem to forget that it’s a natural part of being a kid, and assume that everyone’s playing in the same sandbox. That just ain’t so, and it’s not necessarily a bad (or good) thing. It just is.

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18 thoughts on “MySpace vs. Facebook: Who Cares?”

  1. I was never good at knowing where the cool kids hang. At least I don’t get beaten up and head flushed down the toilet for being in the “wrong” place online … well, not physically ;)

  2. I think this is certainly the case as there are certainly some “areas of the web” that are only for “certain users” already and we know that it’s not all a safe space. Whether the people behind a networking site choose what demographic they appeal to, in the end, it’s going to be up to the demographic where they go. We’ve seen this in web 1.5 where content based sites with bulletin boards attract the tech friendly geeks of each clique, these generalized social networking sites no longer require the geeks and computer savy of a topic to create content, content can be created with easy by many people. So the people are no longer attracted by the content, rather it’s the people that draw them in. Hence, social networking.

    Great find.

  3. I also found it a bit interesting that there was a socioeconomic distinction being made through the use of free services. Normally, there’s a distinction because the “have nots” can’t afford the toys of the “haves” but the web makes that largely disappear.

  4. I think that is because facebook was seeded from an already skewed audience, network effects took over after. Perhaps this will blur or focus more over time? Could go either way.

  5. I don’t know if I agree with your D’Arcy on this one … I think we need to care. I think it’s more than just cliques hanging out in different spaces on the Internet. There are many systemic issues that exist that separate and divide socio-economic classes and I think we have to be careful that these structures are not perpetuated through social network design. Maybe it’s still inevitable, but I think Chris is correct in thinking that “facebook was seeded from an already skewed audience”.

    One thing I have noticed is that many of the people I knew back in highschool, but were perhaps not in my “group”, are people I am rediscovering friendship relationships with. I think the combination of time, reflection and opportunity (the opportunity a social network provides) allows older adults to cross these boundaries and learn about individuals outside of their chosen context.

    All that I am saying is that I believe these issues cannot be looked at superficially, and that the perceived problem of social networks reinforcing or creating visible class divisions is an issue that deserves further research and attention.

  6. MySpace started by being skewed heavily toward 20-30-somethings. It was only in 2005/6 when bands moved in that it became the teen hangout that it is now. Skew is determined by the community, not the designers.

    I’m not sure that a person’s preference of web service for personal and social publishing counts as a viable class division. It’s a website. And nobody is being excluded from either – we’re seeing voluntary choices being made based on personal preference.

  7. It was facebook that had the skewed audience. It was closed to every other demographic but a very tightly controlled subsection. Those are the people who then when the restriction was lifted attracted others, ie. people in their own circles. The catchment widened but not very much demographically.

  8. What I was trying to get at was that the demographics of MySpace completely changed in a 1-2 year period. Facebook may change as well, given that much time (it only really opened up less than a year ago).

  9. I think it will but from what I am seeing many of the new users are coming from linkedin and other company/sales/client contacts (including myself), so business people are making up a large part of the growth so if anything it could well diverge even further from myspace?

  10. Well I’d agree that skew is partially determined by the community, but I also believe design has much to do with what groups congregate to certain places. There has been some work in the area of “social affordances”, design and social class. Design certainly plays a part.

  11. how dare you say “who cares”?!? This is the ultimate showdown of social networking sites!!

  12. ‘care’ might be the wrong word. I think we certainly need to be aware of trends and take time to look beneath the surface, like a fish who is surrounded by water, do they know water exists? We are a victim of our own biases at times (usually), as long as we are not creating trends out of our own prejudices. Beside, it gives anecdotes for conference speakers . . .

  13. Whether or not we believe her results to be valid or substantively important, I think this episode represents a pretty amazing evolution in “peer review.” I mean, how many tenured faculty can we think of that wouldn’t give their eye teeth to have had an audience like danah’s over their entire lives? While I doubt this will ever become commonplace for social science, it does seem to move us into a new possibility space.

  14. the problem comes when you go to a school like i do, which blocks myspace on campus and not facebook, which they can use better to check up on you.

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