Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace
June 25, 2007 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace: "Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made." (Related blog post)
posted by heatherann (143 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe the "subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens" simply dislike Facebook due to their inability to add music that loops on loading, purple on black background, and the ability to become friends with "Cindi", "Amy" or "Jessica" who REALLY want you to check out their cam or sign up for a FREE $500 gift card.
posted by champthom at 5:27 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


In a related story, researchers find MySpace entries 90% less annoying and self-indulgent than Facebook entries.
posted by psmealey at 5:28 AM on June 25, 2007


Interesting article, but I am having trouble seeing what it has to do with Peter Wiggin.
posted by ND¢ at 5:33 AM on June 25, 2007 [6 favorites]


This is so true.
posted by grouse at 5:33 AM on June 25, 2007


I'm a pepper, you're a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?
posted by three blind mice at 5:35 AM on June 25, 2007


three blind mice: Didn't you just say I'm already a pepper? Not really much choice in the matter, is there?
posted by grouse at 5:38 AM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace.

Music is for poor people
posted by kigpig at 5:39 AM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not only was Facebook centered on colleges, but the very word "facebook" - the paper guide created by administration to list everyone at the school - is an explicitly college creation.

The wealthier, more affluent, and more educated demographic of Facebook was also probably a better sell to advertisers, too. How that's changed since open membership, I don't know.
posted by mdonley at 5:43 AM on June 25, 2007


Well, how can this be surprising? Facebook was initially only available to students, and so their initial foundation was built with college students, who are somewhat more likely to be from a more advantaged social or economical background.
posted by hermitosis at 5:44 AM on June 25, 2007


When you do a Facebook search and an entry pops up, the first thing you see underneath the person's name is their university affiliation (though now you might occasionally just see the city they live in, or occasionally, their employer). Facebook is built for showing off your academic/professional credentials, which means the type of people who are expected to go to college after high school, and then have a professional career, will be the dominant "class" among Facebook users. Myspace, aside from the purple-on-red text and autoplay audio and piles of spam, is more egalitarian, and doesn't focus on these sorts of credentials.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:48 AM on June 25, 2007


Dammit, I just became a hegemon. I doubt any of those Myspace Deltas even know what a hegemon is.

So Facebook is to Myspace as MetaFilter is to ??
posted by imperium at 5:49 AM on June 25, 2007


In a related story, researchers find MySpace entries 90% less annoying and self-indulgent than Facebook entries.

Huh? What could possibly be more self-indulgent then an animated background with some 80's power-balled playing in the background.

Frankly I absolutely love seeing myspace buried. Like steve jobs said about Microsoft they have no taste. Not in software, in style or anything else. They really are an embarrassment. The people who run facebook, in comparison, are brilliant. (Of course it's not hard to look brilliant next to myspace)
posted by delmoi at 5:49 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


What hegemonic teens call gaudy can also be labeled as "glitzy" or "bling" or "fly" (or what my generation would call "phat")

danah boyd understands phatness. Because danah boyd is too cool to capitalize her name.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:49 AM on June 25, 2007


There is certainly more overt 'institutional control' in Facebook. I can't make an eyesore of a Facebook profile, no matter how hard I try.

mdonley has it about the literal meaning of the name. The same with 'MySpace' - it's attractive to me, first of all, then to others.

That's about the only way I can see why some people have their MySpace pages looking the way they do...
posted by Deconstruct Now! at 5:50 AM on June 25, 2007


So Facebook is to Myspace as MetaFilter is to ??

I'd say fark.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 AM on June 25, 2007


Music is for poor people.

POPULAR music is for poor people, in a way. You could easily argue that without African slaves and Irish immigrants, none of the archetypal American music forms would exist.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:50 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd say fark.

SA
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:52 AM on June 25, 2007


[didn't realize using Facebook would brand her for life]
posted by orange swan at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2007


I expect this will change somewhat thanks to the Facebook being open to all, but it will probably still carry some college connotations for a while. That said, I remember hearing a conversation on my college campus a few years ago, where someone was very upset that the Facebook had expanded to *gasp* State Schools. It might still be a some elitist institution, but it's mostly moved beyond that attitude.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:56 AM on June 25, 2007


No real evidence provided, just a bunch of assertions. Nice as a blog post, not very useful as a "paper" to be cited (as the author apparently expects).

So, given that, what's interesting about this essay? Facebook's social networks are oriented around corporate and university organizations -- things that "hegemonic" kids (heh, OK, I like that term) tend to gravitate towards and that validate their membership in the middle class. Meanwhile, those who are shut out of that level of the economy for various reasons create pages on MySpace, where there are no restrictions.

The rules and structures that we encode into social software always find expression in the communities that arise around it. If some of those structures are directly appropriated from class markers, you're going to see stratification. I don't find much to wring my hands over here -- is Danah Boyd surprised to find that the Internet hasn't made class mobility in the US any easier?
posted by xthlc at 5:57 AM on June 25, 2007


Didn't you just say I'm already a pepper? Not really much choice in the matter, is there?

Got me there grouse. I'm a pepper, SHE's a pepper....

There is apparently a choice, but it's odd what makes these herds of sheep move from one pasture to the next.
posted by three blind mice at 6:00 AM on June 25, 2007


No real evidence provided, just a bunch of assertions. Nice as a blog post, not very useful as a "paper" to be cited (as the author apparently expects).

No, what she said was, "I've been trying to figure out how to articulate this division for months. I have not yet succeeded. So, instead, I decided to write a blog essay addressing what I'm seeing. I suspect that this will be received with criticism, but my hope is that the readers who encounter this essay might be able to help me think through this. In other words, I want feedback on this piece."
posted by heatherann at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2007


What a badly written, mealy mouthed 'essay'.
posted by signal at 6:04 AM on June 25, 2007


Fark?

First place I thought of was MonkeyFilter.
posted by SentientAI at 6:07 AM on June 25, 2007


4chan
posted by Mick at 6:14 AM on June 25, 2007


It's like the internet is saying what we are all thinking.
posted by DU at 6:14 AM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Like steve jobs said about Microsoft they have no taste.

Right, because it's your taste or no taste. Maybe you missed that part of the essay.

It may not have been perfect, but I thought it was an insightful ethnographic study of these sites.
posted by GuyZero at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just improved my social standing by creating an account over at Facebook.

Keg-stands start at 5pm! Whoooooo!
posted by chillmost at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2007


What about the kids who spring for $25 and register their own URL?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:20 AM on June 25, 2007


I went to community college, so I was only able to join Facebooklet.
posted by ColdChef at 6:20 AM on June 25, 2007


Hell, I dropped out of high school, so I can only use Facecoloringbook.
posted by jonmc at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2007


My phone number's ex-directory, should you wish to make a call.

Mine is even more exclusive.

More exclusive?

I won't have a phone at all.

- Flanders & Swann
posted by jfuller at 6:26 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


heatherann: No, what she said was ...

Then why the citation at the top of the essay?

I guess I'm just a little bit annoyed because I got all excited when BoingBoing linked to this as a "paper", and I was thinking that this was someone who had actually gathered data. I suppose I should have known better, since it was BoingBoing.

Don't get me wrong: it's a fine idea, I enjoyed reading it, and it's the kind of observation that would make a great start to a study. But the author herself and several others have framed it as scholarly work, and it's not. If a student cited this essay as supporting material, I would mark them down.
posted by xthlc at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, wait ... people who sign up to a college/business networking site may be in a different social class than those who sign up to a music/clique networking site?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2007


I wonder if this whole upper-class/lower-class theory applies to any other aspect of youth consumer culture? If anyone can think of any, please post.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2007


...and those with insufficient money at home who have no computer handy...what class does that put them into?
posted by Postroad at 6:36 AM on June 25, 2007


...and those with insufficient money at home who have no computer handy...what class does that put them into?

Hogging-the-card-catalog-computers-at-the-library class.
posted by DU at 6:49 AM on June 25, 2007


Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace.

I think there's some substance to this, but I'm also just going on a gut feeling. All my client's kids have myspace pages and update them obsessively; in fact, I had a problem earlier in the year with a family because the boy was up all night every night on myspace fucking around and not making it to school the next day. His mother is mentally ill and resistant to treatment and doesn't enforce any behavior codes. He's also over 16, the age at which truancy court washes their hands with kids. So I battled with this kid, busting his balls and making him go to school every time I showed up at the house and he was still asleep at one in the afternoon.

I love the fact that poor black teens have flocked to myspace. Myspace has made computers indispensible to a large number of kids who previously had no use for or exposure to them. They're tinkering around with html because they need to keep their pages hot. I know, it's rudimentary, maybe it will never amount to anything for any of them, but I think this is a wedge for introducing technology to kids who wouldn't have otherwise found it. And I'm dead serious about that, these kids do not go to schools outfitted with working computer labs, nor do they come from families that provide computers in the home. The kid I mentioned saved up his own money to buy a used computer that he pushed all the way home from the store in a shopping cart.

It's also become a real attraction for the working class and I'm stunned sometimes to find guys on there that I used to party with in high school, who dropped out and have been breaking rocks or flipping eggs ever since. YES THEY TYPE IN ALL CAPS AND THEY DONT PUNCTUATE TO GOOD, but so what? I mean, no shit. They're fucking high school drop outs, they read at a sixth grade level. They're using computers now, though, and I think that's awesome.
posted by The Straightener at 6:51 AM on June 25, 2007 [34 favorites]


>and those with insufficient money at home who have no computer handy...what class does that put them into?

Faceless
posted by gsb at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2007


These kids today with the Facebook and the MySpace...in my day you either made your friends either by being wealthy or attractive or by skipping class and smoking dope in the woods or you sat in your room alone listening to Dark Side Of The Moon naked with a razor blade and a bottle of vodka...and you wer THANKFUL, DAMMIT!
posted by jonmc at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2007 [8 favorites]


I've got accounts on both. When the revolution comes I will kill myself first.
posted by oddman at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


Pepsi or Coke? Humpty-Dumpty or Frito Lay? Spacebook or Myface?
posted by tehloki at 7:01 AM on June 25, 2007


Since the principal value of a social networking site is that your friends are on it, it wouldn't really be surprising if a small initial difference (Facebook starting as an academic thing) would be magnified, and continue to have an effect even after Facebook opened up to everybody.

It IS true that those who come to the library to use the computers (who often don't have computers at home) overwhelmingly prefer MySpace.
posted by Jeanne at 7:03 AM on June 25, 2007


Facebook or die.
posted by four panels at 7:04 AM on June 25, 2007


Sad, no one even bothers to mention Friendster anymore.
posted by cusack at 7:08 AM on June 25, 2007


"hegemonic" american teens?

yeah, just because someone is working hard to get into college, it means they're trying to take over. the underclass has been stigmatizing education for awhile now: is this really a good strategy? i'm ready for the class war, same as i am for the religious war, let's get it on!
posted by bruce at 7:10 AM on June 25, 2007


Sad, no one even bothers to mention Friendster anymore.

It's really not that sad.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 AM on June 25, 2007


yeah, just because someone is working hard to get into college, it means they're trying to take over. the underclass has been stigmatizing education for awhile now:

This is an...interesting interpretation of affairs...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:17 AM on June 25, 2007


God damn underclass, making it hard for preppy white kids to take over without feeling like dorks.
posted by chunking express at 7:19 AM on June 25, 2007


Music is for poor people

Sigh. I think you're right.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:21 AM on June 25, 2007


OK, so Danah posted some more about the work that underlies the essay, and I feel much better now. And I'm slightly embarassed that I was so harsh, since it she clearly DOES know what the standards are, it's just that she chose to disregard them in this instance.

Still, though, putting that citation at the top really made me cringe.
posted by xthlc at 7:29 AM on June 25, 2007


You are a professor at the University of MySpace and Facebook College. You teach college freshman creative writing seminars of 10 people each. You gave both classes the same assignment: choose one of the three questions and write your response. It's due today.

At the University of MySpace, you get 8 papers returned on time, but the pages are stained with coffee grounds and glitter and cat pawprints, and while it may be some of the most amazing fucking writing you've ever seen, you're distracted by the fact that it was printed on A3 paper instead of the requested A4 paper, written in Comic Sans, lacks endnotes, and has two stickers juxtaposed to create Spongebob and a Lisa Frank unicorn doing the nasty smack in the middle of page 12. No one seems to have answered the questions posed, exactly, and the writing often explodes out of the author's mouth and lands on the page in piles, often with dozens of what seems to be HTML bits floating around the edges. One student enclosed both an mp3 of his band (he's into Scandinavian post-punk harmonica/deep house) and a photo of someone's eyes covered with dark eye shadow with his e-mailed submission but forgot to attach the file to the e-mail, and another tried to hand-deliver the assignment to your house printed on parchment and written in Celtic-style calligraphy that looked like his friend's tattoo while riding a horse and wielding a vaguely-cartoonish fake sword - he claims his costume wasn't finished until the day after the assignment was due. One of your students is an undercover police officer trying to catch child predators.

At Facebook College, you get 9 papers on time, all with perfect MLA-style citation, but these 9 all chose the same question to research out of the three possible choices and it's obvious that everyone's been discussing it together, though no one, as far as you know, has cheated outright. Now, some unique ideas pop up, but nothing is too earth-shattering and everyone seems to have stuck to stylistic norms - 10-point Helvetica. The sentences are almost telegraphic - short bursts of information. Some people seem to have also included their resumes in a plastic report binder, while others have written theirs entirely in obscure references to events in what must be their own relationships, making much of what is said unintelligible, though everyone included their full home address, phone number, and e-mail, making it easy for you to contact them to clear things up. The one student who failed to submit his assignment on time was being questioned by campus police on the due date because of his alleged involvement in a suspected poking behind the library. One of your students is a recruiter for KPMG, but was nearly killed in a hit-and-run by someone driving the "the beautiful truck" through his wall and will miss the rest of the semester.
posted by mdonley at 7:32 AM on June 25, 2007 [47 favorites]


My teen daughter has a foot in both camps, being an academically successful hegemonic high school student and an alternateen, listening to indie music and making indie videos and hanging out with other sarcastic culture-savvy friends.

So where is she? MySpace? Why? One word: music.
posted by kozad at 7:44 AM on June 25, 2007


i like The Straightener's thoughts on this.

facebook's originating at schools (of a certain tenor) resonates with a comment i came across in an article attempting to explain the kindergarten frenzy in n.y.c.: as other valid markers of status decline, your alma mater (and, by extension, it's correlate web2.0 network) is one of the stronger social identifiers left.
posted by progosk at 8:12 AM on June 25, 2007


From personal and friends' experience, it seems the user base is becoming more homogeneous. When I was a sophomore in college, FB was the big new fad (which only we could use...*sniff sniff*) while MySpace was being populated by the youngens. When FB opened up things to the HS students, the crossover in population began. When FB was opened to the mass public, the crossover was even bigger.
Now, with the new applications, it feels like Facebook is becoming more like MySpace, much to my dismay. I stayed away from MySpace particularly because of the cleaner UI and lack of extraneous stuff cluttering the page. Now, that's being lost. As I see my own and other's user pages change over the last 2 years, what was once true of FB (being naturally selected towards richer people due to the college slant), no longer stands.

As time marches on, I think MySpace and Facebook will become more like each other- in particular, FB has already shown its inclination to become more like MySpace.
posted by jmd82 at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2007


posted by mdonley at 10:32 AM on June 25

So, public school kids have more artistic validity, but are losers?

What if, like, a real artist went to Yale? Is that too much cognitive dissonance for you?
posted by four panels at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's not so much that Facebook is awesome as it is that MySpace makes 1998 on Geocities look good.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:33 AM on June 25, 2007 [11 favorites]


i recently went to a wedding with my lady friend and met all of her Connecticut college crowd. nice folks, a bit higher on the crust than myself. i mentioned that i use my myspace more than my facebook and they all thought that that was "pretty skeezy."
meh.
alternatively:

some people drink pepsi
some people drink coke
the wacky morning DJ
says democracy's a joke
posted by es_de_bah at 8:37 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


mdonley: you have received a poke from arcticwoman. You rock.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:37 AM on June 25, 2007


es_de_bah

Heh. Skeezy. College kids trying to be cool. I can make up slang too and act like everyone talks like me.
posted by bam at 8:42 AM on June 25, 2007


Sad, no one even bothers to mention Friendster anymore.

Actually, in my (over-30) demographic, Friendster is still doing pretty well -- many more of my friends have Friendster accounts than Facebook accounts, and no one I know, except my college-aged relatives, has a Myspace page.
posted by escabeche at 8:43 AM on June 25, 2007


I have accounts on both. My facebook account is what I'd want people to see. It shows my education and my employment. My myspace account is for getting in touch with other people I know in meatspace, as it seems most people today have at least a myspace account.

From an aesthetic point of view, facebook is cleaner, uniform and strict. No embeds, no animated GIFs. Myspace will give you the freedom to "express" yourself, and many of the people there go wild with what they can do there, perhaps because it's the only public venue available to them where their voice or personal expression has the same volume or accessibility as everyone else. You can put as much or as little as you want on your page, provided it isn't a web security risk.

Providing an egalitarian forum has its ups and downs; myspace is the perfect example of this. Just like an art class, some take the blank canvas and run with it, developing an attractive, usable page and providing worthwhile content through a myspace blog or other media on their page. For every savant, you have many others that produce narcissistic tripe. Pope Guilty says it well; Geocities had (still has, I guess) the same problem. The internet can give anyone an opportunity to express whatever they choose to present to the world. Millions of websites, myspaces and geocities homepages exist as a testament of that opportunity squandered.

</rant>
posted by johnjreiser at 8:46 AM on June 25, 2007


but i really do have 5,875,534 friends. really i do.
posted by ForBroadcast at 8:48 AM on June 25, 2007


Oh, let the various wage earning classes debate who is top of the pile. I'm going to see where the best place to drydock my yacht in the Mediterranean is, see the rest of you on asmallworld.
posted by geoff. at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2007


I didn't quite get her lumping in of queer kids with working class kids as a group who "don't plan to go to college." There was a flattening of the analysis there that undermined the argument for me.
posted by not that girl at 9:00 AM on June 25, 2007


not that girl, I think she was using 'queer' as an identification of a subculture rather than applying it as an indication of mere orientation. Lots of jocks are secretly pleasing each other in locker rooms in lots of high schools, but they aren't going to talk about that on their profile pages or associate with other kids who call themselves 'queer'.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:07 AM on June 25, 2007


@notthatgirl: Yeah, I noticed that too. It could be that in less affluent, more isolated (however you want to define those characteristics, because I'm not going to pretend to know how) communities, queer (which, on preview, I can see not everyone here read as "partially or exclusively homosexual") youth face the dual problems of finding each other, as they're a less-detectable minority, and the social and political domination of the high school as the main gathering place of the town; once you're kicked out of the acceptable group at school, especially if it's just a few hundred kids, there might not be much left in one's town to turn to, especially if you aren't out to your family and friends.

Aside: I wonder how many homeless queer youth are on MySpace or Facebook.
posted by mdonley at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2007


Besides myspace it's also been fascinating to watch how mp3 player technology has made its way to poor kids. A lot of kids can afford either an Ipod or a desktop but not both. Some kids can afford an Ipod but don't know how to use a desktop. There's a lot of pressure on kids in poor neighborhoods to have hot technology the way there used to be a lot of pressure to own a type of basketball shoe. But getting your Ipod to work takes more knowledge than just strapping on a set of sneaks, and oftentimes requires other pieces of technology that might be out of the user's financial reach.

One client I have is a little on the rough side. He's a young ex-offender with very little education or family support who's on the straight and narrow for the time being. He has a brand new video Ipod and one day I saw him watching Jay-Z videos on it. We were in a McDonalds where we agreed to meet for lunch (his choice) and he had his earbuds in when I sat down.

Now, I'm thinking to myself that there's no way this kid knows how to get video on an Ipod. He's illiterate. He spent a good part of his youth in correctional facilities. So I commented on how nice his Ipod was and asked him how he puts music on it because I know he doesn't have a computer.

He explained that he has a teenage cousin who is good with computers, whose hustle is to charge other kids a couple bucks to hook their Ipods up with hot tracks and videos. He stops over every couple weeks to get a refill, after he's tired of all the stuff his cousin put on for him last time.

These kind of innovative technology sharing arrangements are very common in poor neighborhoods. The same happens with myspace pages, where the one family with the computer and the broadband winds up being the hub on the block where other kids who don't have computers or connections can go to check their pages. Just like how people shared TVs once upon a time, when they were still too expensive and rare for every family to own one.
posted by The Straightener at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2007 [22 favorites]


You actually go to all the trouble of dry docking your yacht geoff.? Well I suppose the proles were bound to find their way into yachting eventually. Just a tip old man, but those of us with the means never travel on the same yacht twice. Once we reach a port and step off the boat we immediately set it on fire and buy a new one. Travelling on the same boat twice is a little like wearing the same clothes twice no? Oh well, I am sure you are doing the best you can. You may wish to stick to less gentlemanly pursuits. Have you considered the Nas Cars? Apparently they are quite popular with your set.
posted by ND¢ at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2007 [12 favorites]


My peers apparently fit into the demographic that knows of neither Facebook nor Myspace, as I have a total of one meatspace friend on each network, not counting all those bands I added as friends on my Myspace profile just to make it look less depressing and empty...

Which reminds me, I haven't logged into either site in about six weeks now...
posted by Jimbob at 9:17 AM on June 25, 2007


Preppy, over-educated white people have always stuck together. There's no reason whatsoever to believe these prejudices would not be reflected in the popular social networks where people are actually encouraged to emphasize their social status by displaying their consumer choices. Like the poor misguided souls who believed television would be a force for education, equality and enlightenment, only a certain kind of optimist could believe the internet will break down various social barriers.
posted by nixerman at 9:22 AM on June 25, 2007


I am kind of pissed that in my area, Myspace listings are mostly high school kids, and Facebook is almost exclusively frat/sorority turf. It's made both sites pretty useless for the things that I like: networking and finding people with interesting hobbies.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2007


While I can't really comment on the validity of danah boyd's point (I never look at either myspace or facebook), what sticks out to me is that Rupert Murdoch shelled out big money to capture the weird-kid market, but apparently wasn't interested in the successful-kid market. So what's really the hegemonic culture here?

wonders if anyone else out there uses Tribe
posted by adamrice at 9:27 AM on June 25, 2007


what sticks out to me is that Rupert Murdoch shelled out big money to capture the weird-kid market, but apparently wasn't interested in the successful-kid market.

Ummm...there are more 'weird kids' than 'successful kids' and thus more $.
posted by jonmc at 9:38 AM on June 25, 2007


The Straightener has made me think about the paradox of wealthier school districts pulling back pilot programs with laptops in classrooms because the supposedly-advanced-track kids did nothing but check their profiles, which is tangential to the discussion, but (because of its tangential status) is still connected, only just.
posted by mdonley at 9:38 AM on June 25, 2007


"I've been trying to figure out how to articulate this division for months. I have not yet succeeded. So, instead, I decided to write a blog essay addressing what I'm seeing. I suspect that this will be received with criticism, but my hope is that the readers who encounter this essay might be able to help me think through this. In other words, I want feedback on this piece."

Yeah, I wrote almost those exact words, in friendly purple crayon, across the paper I submitted to Science. Surprisingly enough, no one there wanted to help me think. Should I post my requests for thinking help to Jobs or Projects?

There's an interesting kernel here. I wish someone would write up some actual research about it.

*/ My son made my Myspace page. It's fantastic, but the youthful turn of phrase attracts creepy guys.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:42 AM on June 25, 2007


HI I'M ON MYSPACE FACEBOOK AND I COULD ETC., ETC.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:01 AM on June 25, 2007


"...They're fucking high school drop outs, they read at a sixth grade level. They're using computers now, though, and I think that's awesome."

Why is "using computers" such a Good Thing in itself? I equate computers with radios and washing machines, not with Liberty and Progress or even agriculture and civilization. Would slavery be the wonderful if slaves had MySpace pages? Is starving with TB fun with an iPod?

By the way, I, myself, have neither a MySpace nor a facebook account. I dropped out of 8th grade.
posted by davy at 10:03 AM on June 25, 2007


adamrice, Facebook really only blew up recently. I'd say it's only the last 4-6 months where it seems like everyone suddenly got a god damn facebook page.
posted by chunking express at 10:04 AM on June 25, 2007


Danah Boyd's essay, Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace, is wonderfully written and very interesting.

Thanks for the stimulating post.
posted by nickyskye at 10:09 AM on June 25, 2007


"...alternateen, listening to indie music and making indie videos and hanging out with other sarcastic culture-savvy friends."

Oh my, you're proud of your kid's marketing niche.

Metafilter: Our kids are alternateens!
posted by davy at 10:09 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


adamrice, Facebook really only blew up recently. I'd say it's only the last 4-6 months where it seems like everyone suddenly got a god damn facebook page.

Unless you were in college ~4 years ago.
posted by jmd82 at 10:09 AM on June 25, 2007


Why is "using computers" such a Good Thing in itself?

Using computers is a good thing in itself because it exposes the user to a range of functions and applications that can be good for other things, like job searching or using google to locate adult education or parenting resources. The difference between knowing and not knowing how to use the Internet is becoming increasingly more crucial; it's become the primary conduit for information transmission and if you don't know how to or cannot access information you are naturally at a disadvantage to those that do.

There are a million other potentials that may pop up in the next forty or so years as these new users advance their skills, beginning to move in step with new technology as it develops. They are being brought into a very important loop, right now.

I equate computers with radios and washing machines, not with Liberty and Progress or even agriculture and civilization. Would slavery be the wonderful if slaves had MySpace pages?

Why are you trying to take this otherwise extremely productive and constructive discussion in this direction?
posted by The Straightener at 10:10 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I equate computers with radios and washing machines, not with Liberty and Progress or even agriculture and civilization. Would slavery be the wonderful if slaves had MySpace pages?

You know who would have thought so? That's right. ADOLF HITLER!!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2007


jmd82, I graduated just before it really got big on campus. And i'd say it was still small potatoes till it opened up to everyone else. In Toronto it's what all my 30 something coworkers are on.
posted by chunking express at 10:23 AM on June 25, 2007


SNOBS AGAINST THE SLOBS!!!!

I know how this ends.

Facebook blows up during some sort of contest to between the two while the stodgy and pompous Mark "The Judge" Zuckerberg, and his buddy Dustin "The Dean" Moskovitz, take turns alternating from outraged astonishment to yelling "MYYYYSPAAAAACE!"

This all the while the lovable slobs from MySpace dance on the hoods of their cars and kiss the formerly snobby girls who secretly love the MySpace free-spirited ways... oh... and either the William Tell Overture or Kenny Logins is playing in the background.

I love how this ends.
posted by tkchrist at 10:25 AM on June 25, 2007


For what it's worth, this article surprised me a bit. I work at a public library in Toronto, and almost everyone seems to be on Facebook these days; the site's popularity seems to span all racial and socio-economic boundaries. I still see the odd kid here or there on MySpace, but not very often.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:25 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


What hegemonic teens call gaudy can also be labeled as "glitzy" or "bling" or "fly" (or what my generation would call "phat") by subaltern teens.

I am not sure I would call many MySpace pages "gaudy." I would call them "unreadable."

I'm a bit disappointed in danah's reluctance to pass aesthetic judgment on the choices of MySpace users. Rather, she seems to simply say, "Group A says this about Facebook aesthetics vs. MySpace aesthetics. Group B typically prefers MySpace aesthetics." Could it not be that a certain segment of MySpace users is simply aesthetically deficient, and MySpace allows users enough flexibility to shoot themselves in the foot?

It's not simply that Facebook users have bad aesthetics, too, and are simply prevented from indulging in their bad habits (though that it certainly true to a degree)-- danah writes:
The look and feel that is acceptable amongst average Latino users is quite different from what you see the subculturally-identified outcasts using. Amongst the emo teens, there's a push for simple black/white/grey backgrounds and simplistic layouts. While I'm using the term "subaltern teens" to lump together non-hegemonic teens, the lifestyle divisions amongst the subalterns are quite visible on MySpace through the aesthetic choices of the backgrounds.
Why is it that there seems to be a class division in which one class of MySpace users (the ones who are most likely to be consciously rejecting facebook) favors simplicity while another class (for whom MySpace is the "default" choice) makes unreadable pages?
posted by deanc at 10:25 AM on June 25, 2007


"I'm alternative, just like everybody else in my advertising category!" How unique!

And The_Straightener, of course it's an "extremely productive and constructive discussion," YOU are in it! Okay, I see your point about the World Wide Web being the major conduit for information in the "developed world," but I also see it being used for reinforcing one's marketing-niche "identity" and for commodity fetishism. 20 years ago ghetto kids were killing each other to steal their sneakers, now they'll want iPods: ain't Progress wonderful.
posted by davy at 10:27 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]




Maybe upper class kids are more knowledgeable on the idea of privacy controls and desire credibility (formal listings of education)?
posted by k8t at 10:29 AM on June 25, 2007


myspace has locked down that precious demographic of people who commit felonies, even murder, then post a blog entry about it. I don't think facebook will ever be able to tap this market.
posted by kigpig at 10:31 AM on June 25, 2007


k8t, judging by the sorts of things the teenage girls my fiancee teaches karate post online, I doubt this is the case.
posted by chunking express at 10:31 AM on June 25, 2007


And The_Straightener, of course it's an "extremely productive and constructive discussion," YOU are in it!

Truth!
posted by The Straightener at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2007


I like MySpace, damn it. It's enabled me to talk directly with some musicians I truly respect -- the under radar types -- and it's very human, where we just exchange thoughts on music and whatnot and comment on each other's cat pictures.

I also like danah boyd. She takes kids and their culture seriously, which is why she seems so agonized and restrained when trying to describe MySpace as low culture and Facebook as high. I respect The Straightener's no-bullshit comments here very much, but I also understand her reserve. It's very tricky to formulate coherent thoughts about class without being misinterpreted or seeming to ascribe value judgements. That's especially true for more academic or formal writing.

Ultimately MySpace (though god knows how this will change under Murdoch's rule) is classless in a much more sneaky sense. Everything on the plate touches, from the mainstream entertainment media to the deviant art types to the ubiquitous camgirls to the outright fucking scary, and from all over the world. All that energy creates some strange and wonderful and gut-wrenchingly awful shit. I think it's horrible and I think it's great. Feel free to friend us. (Especially if you have a cat.)
posted by melissa may at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2007


chunking express, your Toronto stats led me to this poorly-doctored prize-winning image of a drunken 35-year-old Calgarian getting busted by his mom. Thanks, Globe and Mail!
posted by mdonley at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Everything on the plate touches."

Please explain what that means, for and to those of us not in your marketing niche? I'm picturing a shiny silver-plated home plate, but I think cleats would ruin it.
posted by davy at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2007


"Everything on the plate touches."

Please explain what that means, for and to those of us not in your marketing niche? I'm picturing a shiny silver-plated home plate, but I think cleats would ruin it.


Allow me to explain using a clip from Toys!
posted by chrominance at 11:09 AM on June 25, 2007


I just know I stay the heck away from MySpace because of all the embedded crap people put in. Not just music, either. I've seen MySpace pages that actually crashed my browser. I don't know if they actually let you put malware in pages, or what.
posted by Many bubbles at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2007


These social networks like myspace and facebook, and yes, even asmallworld, are all artificial, in the sense that the online identity can be constructed to form whatever identity the person wants. More importantly though, these things are useful as a way to exclude others.

You want to see a real, organic, exclusive social network in action? Here's a list of the top 20 law firms in the US. You'd be amazed by how many of the people in those firms know each other personally or went to school with each other.

There's a lot of pressure on kids in poor neighborhoods to have hot technology the way there used to be a lot of pressure to own a type of basketball shoe.

First of all, ipods aren't technology. And all the hot technology you are talking about are little more than tawdry consumer goods, like flashy watches or boom boxes in the 80's. For most of the people you are describing, striving to purchase ipods is nothing more than conspicuous consumption, which has been around for decades.

Computers are cheap, insanely cheap. You can buy a *new* computer for less than $300.

My distinction is this - computers have the ability to be but are not necessarily creative tools. If a kid needs a computer to be creative, to literally create things like stories, images, music, programs or pie charts then that kid should have a computer, for the same reason every kid should have pencils and crayons and paper to write and draw on.

If the kid needs a computer because he wants to connect to the web and browse around, listen to music, or watch videos, then that kid does not need a computer, because he's using the computer like a TV, and kids don't really need to watch any TV.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:44 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel I think The Straightener's point is that a kid who's familiar with using a computer for something will be more able to use the same computer to find a job or get some other service when the time comes that he or she needs it.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2007


Oh, and I stay away from Facebook because it doesn't have anything I want.
posted by Many bubbles at 11:50 AM on June 25, 2007


Why is it that there seems to be a class division in which one class of MySpace users (the ones who are most likely to be consciously rejecting facebook) favors simplicity while another class (for whom MySpace is the "default" choice) makes unreadable pages?
posted by deanc at 1:25 PM on June 25


I don't think the unreadable pages are made unreadable deliberately. I think the page's user simply keeps adding random things that they pick up, the way some people buy everything that they see and like, thereby accumulating random junk and knick knacks in their house. Think of it like interior design - you design the room at once from the start, and then you consciously refrain from adding to it, even if you later see things you like, because they don't go with the design.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:50 AM on June 25, 2007


I have no idea what this discussion is about. Does anyone over 25 use these sites at all? What are they even FOR? I use the net for news and reading about things, not for socializing.

Don't these kids see a problem with putting enormous amounts of embarrassing, pretentious crap about themselves permanently online?

Okay, sometimes I listen to music on Myspace
posted by Bletch at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2007


If a kid needs a computer to be creative, to literally create things like stories, images, music, programs or pie charts then that kid should have a computer, for the same reason every kid should have pencils and crayons and paper to write and draw on.

If the kid needs a computer because he wants to connect to the web and browse around, listen to music, or watch videos, then that kid does not need a computer, because he's using the computer like a TV, and kids don't really need to watch any TV.

But both TV and the Web can be portals of information access about the world, culture, news, etc. For kids that aren't growing up in houses where there aren't daily newspapers, that web connection (whether or not its theirs or one they can borrow/use at the library or elsewhere) can be access to a tremendous amount of knowledge.

Do kids *need* a computer to do that? No, of course not, if there are other options readily available. But I reject the idea that the only "necessary" uses of computers are artistic.

Computers are cheap, insanely cheap. You can buy a *new* computer for less than $300.

This is only cheap for those with some disposable income. If you are living paycheque to paycheque, $300 is out of your reach.

In any event, I guess that was a derail. Apologies. Back on topic, I think Davy is on to something when he talks more about Facebook v. Myspace being the difference between marketing niches rather than classes. The writer of the article in question really tries divide teens into two "subcultures" -- hegemonic and (by exclusion) non-hegemonic. This really isn't a sustainable difference since teens flow in and out of these groupings. Lumping "emo kids" with "inner city Hispanics" as "non hegemonic" really does a disservice both to her article and to the groups in question. A majority of those lonely emo kids will go on to become productive cogs in the giant machinery of the economy once they get past those oh-so-painful teenage years.

I guess what I'm getting at is that she tries to import the sociological language of class and the rigid structures that implies (thus making things actually a "class"), but is really only talking about trends and aesthetic tastes.

It's an interesting article, but I don't think it has any of the broad social ramifications the author seems to think it has.
posted by modernnomad at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2007


ingore the double negative about daily newspapers.. sorry.
posted by modernnomad at 12:27 PM on June 25, 2007


Y'all hip.now.with-its'll be glad to hear your "controversy" made the world-wide big-time.
posted by davy at 12:36 PM on June 25, 2007


OK, so where are all there diamond in the rough, alternative, artistice, subversive,myspace pages? Links anyone?

I have pages on the both, and the usefulness of Facebook easily trumps Myspace.
posted by afu at 12:59 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


these diamond in the rough
posted by afu at 1:00 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


BBC News has an article on this -- Social sites reveal class divide.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on June 25, 2007


anyone talking about "myspace aesthetics" is patently insane.
posted by quonsar at 1:24 PM on June 25, 2007


"anyone talking about 'myspace aesthetics' is patently insane."

Or oxymoronic!

So they're patenting insanity these days? Ain't that "C in a circle" logo enough, or maybe that "TM" thingy?
posted by davy at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2007


"Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families)"

"Hegemonic American teens?" Are you fucking joking me? Why not just say "upper/middle class teens"? Because it would make the phony premise of your essay (college-oriented website -> upper/middle-class bias) too obvious?

This is academic Olestra.
posted by spiderwire at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2007


What about the kids who spring for $25 and register their own URL?

They're just nerds. Who wants to be their friends, anyway?

<ogre>NERDS!</ogre>
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2007


Goddamn that accordion guy. This hits the blogosphere, but he already attended the talk in person. Anyone wanting to flame this article shoudl read his notes of a much more encompassing talk: http://globalnerdy.com/2007/06/25/notes-from-danah-boyds-myfriends-myspace/
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on June 25, 2007


so where are all there diamond in the rough, alternative, artistice, subversive,myspace pages?

afu, I'm going to link to a couple of previous comments I made for a few examples.

I'm also very interested in Turkish music, particularly pop and folk from the '60s and '70s, and myspace pages for great artists like Selda Bagcan and Bulent Ortacgil are often the only English language sites available for them, and or a place where you can potentially connect with with other fans.

For me, it's the farflung global nature of the place that so appeals. There is a generally a page even for my most obscure interest. There's a few people I've been able to direct to this music because of it. Teens are likewise using it to connect to music they love. Some of their tastes may not be too highbrow but then again I had some fairly lowbrow interests of my own at their age. What I didn't have was access to such a wide net. I am glad kids do now, for these reasons and the ones The Straightener described so well.
posted by melissa may at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2007


Well, the overall cultures of these sites are diametrically opposed to each other.

Facebook has always tended to value exclusivity, privacy, and selectivity. I was studying in the late summer of 2004 with students from various universities. By this point, facebook had been opened up to students from less than two dozen schools. And already, the kids from Yale were bitching about how the coolness of the site was diluted by people from, ugh, NYU. Just like all the college kids cried when high schoolers were offered access, and then employees of certain companies, and then everybody.

But increasing the site's population isn't the only thing that makes huge groups of people whine. The biggest outrage I've seen so far came when facebook added the News Feed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with facebook, the News Feed is a listing, on the first page you are redirected to after login, of various updates about what your friends have been doing on the site. Maybe they added some pictures, or wrote a journal entry, or entered a relationship with someone else. These are items of information that are readily available on your friends' profiles, and they aren't shown to anyone (strangers, members of networks where you're using custom privacy settings) who wouldn't be able to see those items on your profile page anyway. Literally, nothing new about any of these users was revealed, but just the fact that this information was being shown to people who MIGHT not have gone to one's profile to see it anyway was enough to cause people to start protest groups with hundreds of thousands of members, etc.

Contrasted with MySpace, whose culture seems to revolve around amassing huge quantities of friends and broadcasting one's preferred self-image and minor life events to AS MANY PEOPLE AS OMG POSSIBLE. People on facebook complained that their friends were notified when they added new galleries of pictures; on the other hand, the last time I spent any appreciable time on myspace, a good 95% of the bulletins I received from my friends were along the lines of "I ADDED NEW PICTURES PLEASE EVERYBODY GO LEAVE COMMENTS" or "VOTE FOR ME ON THIS PAGE" or "COME SEE ME DJ HERE," etc. Whereas myself, and most of the real (non-fake personality) facebook members I've encountered seem to actually limit their friends list to meatspace friends or at least classmates or associates, it seemed as though MOST people my age on myspace strived to have at least 1,000 friends, and many had dozens or even hundreds of thousands of friends. Facebook fans like that profile pages are clean, the information is readable, there aren't music videos autostarting on profile pages onload (biggest pain in the ass to opening multiple profiles in tabs, ever), thousands of faux-sparkly animations, and so on, while MySpace fans hate the fact that they CAN'T customize their profiles with those things.

MySpace just seems inherently more attention-competitive and voyeuristic. Everyone who has spent any time on it has gotten the friend requests from randoms and received messages from bands they've never heard of and witnessed the comments of people who never seem to actually make meaningful statements on their friends' profile pages, but do post a "JUST SHOWIN SOME LUV" gif on all of their friends' profiles twice a week to fish for responses on their page. And while danah says she sees "more half-naked, drink-carrying high school students on Facebook than on MySpace," that is the polar opposite of MY experiences with those sites. (Well, the half-naked part, anyway. Maybe MySpace users are more exhibitionistic about nudity and Facebook users more so about alcoholism, which does actually fit well with the rich whitey Facebook stereotype)

I don't know what I'm getting at, except that maybe, as teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds tend to identify with hip hop culture, with its valuation of bravado and bling, so they choose to create their online presence on a site that allows them to show off to everyone, outfit their profiles with lots of sparkles and music, and easily wade through the mountains of other people with similar taste.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:26 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


p.s. snark: I enjoyed the section on her methodology.

For example, I have analyzed over 10,000 MySpace profiles, clocked over 2000 hours surfing and observing what happens on MySpace, and formally interviewed 90 teens in 7 states with a variety of different backgrounds and demographics.
I too have browsed the profiles of hot strangers who appeal to me somewhat over the course of way too many hours. But,

I ride buses to observe teens; I hang out at fast food joints and malls.
sounds more like: I HAVE SOME CANDY IN MY VAN
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that generally those older than 25 are proud that they do not have a myspace profile.
posted by andendau at 2:52 PM on June 25, 2007


I thought there was a rational reason why I liked Facebook better.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:36 PM on June 25, 2007


I'd say I'm equally addicted to both (although, my profile links to MySpace because Facebook is all private-like). I'm neither poor nor privileged - where does it leave me?
posted by cholly at 4:38 PM on June 25, 2007


FB is to MS as Mefi is to Fark, definitely.
posted by autodidact at 5:05 PM on June 25, 2007


Quality post, quality comments, this is why I like this place. Thanks everyone.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:21 PM on June 25, 2007


Don't these kids see a problem with putting enormous amounts of embarrassing, pretentious crap about themselves permanently online?

I'm going to assume there is an amount of conscious sarcasm/irony being used here.

I use the net for news and reading about things, not for socializing.

Ok, now I know the comment was sarcasm. The net IS social. I'm going to elaborate anyways, in case anyone didn't get the original commentor's wit.

I run into people all the time who complain about MySpace. It's especially bad among some librarians I know, which is painful, because MySpace has so much potential. Like Geocities, MySpace is giving a voice to a whole segment of the population that didn't have the resources to publish to such a global audience before. So for the most part they use it to publish horrendous pages, but it's really just another example of Sturgeon's Law.

If you're looking for acts of pretentiousness, look no further than the people who complain about the lack of class on MySpace. And there's that word again, because Danah Boyd is right, it's a class issue.

Instead of complaining about social networking sites, I wish people would look beyond the sparkles and animated gifs and realize that the underlying technology encourages collaboration. Somebody just needs to find a way to harness these sites to encourage democratic participation or some other positive social change.
posted by formless at 6:43 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


My circle was late to the Facebook party, so was introduced to it as a club built on exclusivity selling out that same foundation. I like MySpace a lot. Design is something I appreciate but it's one of the most pathetic things to be a snob over, imho.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:26 PM on June 25, 2007


Well, since we're all talking about it,

Facebook me!

add me!


hahahahaha.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:04 PM on June 25, 2007


I wrote a reply but it beecame very long so I made it into a blog post. On the other hand, this thread is winding down so a long post won't piss off to omany people wtill reading this thread, so here goes:
I had become acquainted through a complete random meeting of electrons with a young lady from Orange County, California, who's parents were wealthy enough that she could live without worrying about money, go to clubs and party more nights than not, drive around in a nice car and hang out on the beach a good portion of the time, and was politically very Republican. All the 'class marks' of someone the author would place in the Hegemonic Teen group. Yet she was all over MySpace and as far as I know didn't care much for Facebook — she certainly never mentioned it in conversation. Instead her topics of interest in online discussion were her World of Warcraft characters and Skype.

And here's where I think the distinction in the service provided by MySpace and Facebook differs. Facebook reinforces existing social structures, while MySpace has no imposed imposed structure, which forces users to make their own. As Danah Boyd says in the article, what will attract a teenage user to Facebook is the desire to get to know the students of the University they want to attend, and slot themselves into school's social structure through the use of an online tool that mirrors this social structure.

A teenager who puts some effort into creating a MySpace profile is probably finding cool pictures for their background image, tweaking the layout to make it look the way they want, adding little gadgets and videos and games and arranging the friends and the bands in his or her Top Friends to reflect how they fit in the user's own tastes. This leads to the ubiquitous charge that "MySpace is tacky and gaudy and cluttered" but that's only how the majority of the users like it that wayor they wouldn't make their profiles the way they do.

There is certainly a desire to fit in with a group on MySpace just as there is on Facebook, but instead of doing it by joining a network that reflects real-life institutions — Universities and corporations and only recently geographical locations — MySpace users identify themselves as part of a musical or other subculture by decorating their profiles in certain typical styles. Even before the music starts you can tell a MySpace user is a metalhead (even distinguishing a death metal fan from a Norwegian black metal enthusiast) just by how the page is decorated. People form clusters b having the same bands and popular people in their top friends and making themselves visible through comments and bulletins and blog posts which generate comments and attention. You know who the goths and the club kids and the anime fans are on MySpace, but there is no 'goths' network on Facebook.

Facebook in Canada — Bigger and Flatter

The social stratification described in the article is more pronounced in the US than in Canada. Facebook started as a site exclusive to top-tier US universities. In the MetaFilter thread someone recalls a Yale student complaining that Facebook went downhill when they started letting NYU students onto the site. The user base then expanded out to more and more colleges, then to High Schools, and finally to an open membership policy, with protest groups filled with thousands of complaining users popping up at every step.

But in Canada things were much flatter, and the growth of Facebook is even faster than in the U.S. In fact, Toronto is now the Facebook capital of the universe with over 500,000 users in the 'Toronto, ON' network, which leaves out users who've only joined the University of Toronto, York University and every other school-related network in the city.

The adopters of MySpace, which became popular in my part of the world in 2005 among independent music fans and gradually spreading until everyone I thought of as part of the more eclectic crowd had their own profiles, but my little sisters never found the site appealing, nor did an of my pretty mainstream co-workers or former schoolmates. If you weren't into indie rock or part of a subculture there was not much there for you t tie yourself to, and the ones who wanted online attention for the sake of it already had been swept in the blogging phenomenon of two years earlier.

But then along came Facebook, in Charlottetown I would point to Fall, 2006 as the official start of the time when no one would shut the hell up about Facebook. Now the high school kids are just as likely to have a page as University students, and co-workers whom I'd never expect to want to have an online presence are all active members.

The changing dominance of a given social network seems to me to be a de-evolution starting with LiveJournal, which was full of weirdos but where you at least had to be literate to use it, to MySpace where you could get by just fine by only posting pictures of your cat and animated gifs and copy-and-pasted greetings to friends' comments, to Facebook where you don't even have to worry about expressing yourself even a little. They give you a button to 'poke' someone if mustering up the word 'Hi!' is too much creative strain.

And while Facebook doesn't have the same strong institutional underpinnings in Canada — the original meaning of the word face book, a physical book given to students at the beginning of the year to show them their fellow students' pictures is an unknown term in Canadian universities — I also like to think that class is a less pervasive divider in Canadian society. In Canadian universities it matters much less which school you went to as it does who your supervisor was. And certainly no one outside of the most insular Bay Street wealthy elite could give a toss which high school you went to.

In Canada using Facebook doesn't associate you automatically with prestigious or even middle-class institutions like Universities and major corporations, it just means you're doing what everyone else is doing.
On a side note, I think Melissa May has nailed the relative strengths of MySpace which are almost always overlooked.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:21 PM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Don't these kids see a problem with putting enormous amounts of embarrassing, pretentious crap about themselves permanently online?"

I'm going to assume there is an amount of conscious sarcasm/irony being used here.


Well, people with a bit of sense use pseudonyms for that, so that it doesn't come up when future employers google your name. Please let me hold onto the last scraps of my faith in humanity and don't tell me someone actually named their kid Bletch.
posted by Many bubbles at 8:32 PM on June 25, 2007


Kid Charlemagne: What about the kids who spring for $25 and register their own URL?

If you've ever read Snow Crash, then you could draw a few paralells between Metaverse avatars and contemporary personal web sites. Simply put:

Facebook = Avatar Construction Set (tm)
Myspace = Brandy & Clint
Personal URL = solitary custom avatar

The relevant passages from the novel:

Avatar Construction Set (tm)
The couples coming off the monorail can't afford to have custom avatars made and don't know how to write their own. They have to buy off-the-shelf avatars. One of the girls has a pretty nice one. It would be considered quite the fashion statement among the K-Tel set. Looks like she has bought the Avatar Construction Set (tm) and put together her own, customized model out of miscellaneous parts. It might even look something like its owner. Her date doesn't look half bad himself.

Brandy & Clint
The other girl is a Brandy. Her date is a Clint. Brandy and Clint are both popular, off-the-shelf models. When white-trash high school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy. The user can select three breast sizes: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Brandy has a limited repertoire of facial expressions: cute and pouty; cute and sultry; perky and interested; smiling and receptive; cute and spacy. Her eyelashes are half an inch long, and the software is so cheap that they are rendered as solid ebony chips. When a Brandy flutters her eyelashes, you can almost feel the breeze. Clint is just the male counterpart of Brandy. He is craggy and handsome and has an extremely limited range of facial expressions.

Custom avatar
Hiro's avatar just looks like Hiro, with the difference that no matter what Hiro is wearing in Reality, his avatar always wears a black leather kimono. Most hacker types don't go in for garish avatars, because they know that it takes a lot more sophistication to render a realistic human face than a talking penis. Kind of the way people who really know clothing can appreciate the fine details that separate a cheap gray wool suit from an expensive handtailored gray wool suit.
...
They could strike up a conversation: Hiro in the U-Stor-It in L.A. and the four teenagers probably on a couch in a suburb of Chicago, each with their own laptop. But they probably won't talk to each other, any more than they would in Reality. These are nice kids, and they don't want to talk to a solitary crossbreed with a slick custom avatar who's packing a couple of swords.

posted by PsychoKick at 8:52 PM on June 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


Unexpectedly, I discovered that Ms. boyd cited Nalini Kotamraju, a former colleague of mine from the Sociology Department at Berkeley. Interestingly, I think that Nalini's dissertation (based on the abstract I read) does a better job of explaining the Myspace vs. Facebook distinction than Ms. boyd. Based on a factor analysis of data on how people use the Internet and other computer technologies, Nalini argues that Internet usage clusters in four different "types": socially active, career-minded, trend-conscious, and fun-focused. These "types" evidently predicted how people used the Internet, even after controlling for the standard demographic variables. Using this theory as a jumping-off point, I would hypothesize that Facebook focuses more on the "social" and "career" dimensions of Internet use, while MySpace focuses more on the "trends" and "fun" (e.g., learning about a hot new band). People on Facebook also have interest in "trends" and "fun," but I would guess that it is more focused toward specific goals associated with "networking," social climbing, and personal advancement in one's educational & career environment. With MySpace, on the other hand, you are more likely to find people enjoying the "social" aspect of the Web, but directed toward the pursuit of fun and silliness, instead of some rigid career or educational goal.
posted by jonp72 at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thanks jonp72. She has some interesting stuff out there.
posted by k8t at 9:43 PM on June 25, 2007


I know I'm a bit late to the game, but what about Xpeeps? There is some very interesting and very odd stuff going on there. And I don't just mean weekend-warrior trannies or naked goth boys.

Social class is a whole lot harder to read into Xpeeps, and there's the whole complication of porno studios and pornstars establishing their own high-gloss profiles on the site.
posted by LMGM at 4:14 AM on June 26, 2007


Xpeeps is very, very NSFW.
posted by mdonley at 4:27 AM on June 26, 2007


So, where does this leave us Bebo-ers?
posted by Fence at 5:58 AM on June 26, 2007


When I was 12 (I'm 24 now), I got a book on clearance at Sam's Club on how to make a webpage. So I fired up notepad and mspaint and before long had my own page with a background I'd made (blue green and yellow bullseyes), a shit-ton of X-Files and dragon pictures (courtesy some ftp with 8 kajillion Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta images), rainbow divider bars, and laboriously hand-done wavey text. I didn't see animated gifs until later, but once I got a hold of those I went wild -- those smiley faces are rotating! And if I put five in a row they look even better! I eventually got into embedded midis and it never occured to me that someone wouldn't love hearing Crocodile Rock every time my page loaded.

Nowadays my skills are just too far behind to make webpages, and anyway, the struggle to be tasteful sucks the fun out of it. So in that sense, I see the appeal of MySpace. I remember having such a good time working on my page. I felt like a bird picking up shiny things. Sometimes it's nice to not worry about conveying information or sharing meaningful things. It's satisfying to just build a shrine to Neat Stuff.
posted by Marit at 8:44 AM on June 26, 2007


It breaks my heart to watch a class divide play out in the technology. I shouldn't be surprised - when orkut grew popular in India, the caste system was formalized within the system by the users. But there's something so strange about watching a generation splice themselves in two based on class divisions or lifestyles or whatever you want to call these socio-structural divisions.

Really interesting.

Oh and Xpeeps is extremely NSFW.
posted by iamstillalive at 10:08 AM on June 26, 2007


xpeeps gives me the xcreeps
posted by Pastabagel at 10:52 AM on June 26, 2007


Fence, it puts you outside the US.
posted by mosessis at 6:48 PM on June 26, 2007


Right. Sorry about the non-NSFW-marked Xpeeps link. I thought "weekend warrior trannies and naked goth boys" would've implied some NSFW images, but I see now that I was being silly.
posted by LMGM at 12:45 AM on June 28, 2007


So Facebook is to Myspace as MetaFilter is to ??

All of those gawdaful "forums" out there with their endless boxes, emoticons, and "me toos".
posted by Twang at 4:06 PM on June 28, 2007


"Computers are cheap, insanely cheap. You can buy a *new* computer for less than $300."

AHA! a FACEBOOKER!
posted by Twang at 4:11 PM on June 28, 2007




I use facebook mostly for college friends, and myspace to keep in touch with friends not in college, and that's most common with my friends as well.
posted by its just me at 12:54 AM on July 10, 2007


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