Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Facebook v MySpace - a class divide?

The media has latched onto Danah Boyd's preliminary conjectures about a possible class divide between Facebook and MySpace users...
" Ms Boyd said typical Facebook users "tend to come from families who emphasise education and going to college. They are primarily white, but not exclusively". MySpace, meanwhile, "is still home for Latino and Hispanic teens, immigrant teens" as well as "other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm".
Ms Boyd also conjectures that the US military's recent decision to ban personnel from using sites including MySpace is evidence of social fissures in the armed forces. "A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because there's a division, even in the military. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook." (Now that is interesting - is this to say the military fears that less educated soldiers are more subversive than more educated officers? that officers can be controlled?).

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has enjoyed massive success - particularly among young music fans - and recently became the most visited site on the web. But Facebook, started by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, has been gaining ground. Until last year membership was limited to university students and individuals with an email address from an academic institution. This, said Ms Boyd, has given the site higher value among aspirational teens. ( network envy is a short lived experience)

There is always movement between different social networking tools, and certain groups using one tool and a different group using the other. is this a reflection og the toolset, how people use the tool, or a flash mob phenomena (me too!) And there always has been and always will be age divides, generational divides, social divides, social groupings, which change and grow, are inclusive to some, and exclusive to others. (I'm waiting for the upper crust version of Second Life - I know there will be some virtual island that just won't let me set foot in it!)

While a holistic approach to online communities and communication is something I would like to see, there will be those who want the "us and them" divide. It'll be interesting to see if legal action is taken against a social network that makes it a policy (or creates an environment designed for exclusion - can that happen?* ) to exclude certain types of people. * maybe demoinstrated by the fact that I can't buy the "best" virtual clothes for my avatar in Second Life and thereby exclude myself from communication with other, better dressed avatars?

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