UC Berkeley graduate student Danah Boyd recently released an informal essay about MySpace and Facebook. In her essay, she discusses a class divide between the users of the social networking sites.

While it certainly says something about how socioeconomics play into Internet culture, it’s kinda like an article you read in a theory class that basically articulates what you already know subconsciously. In that sense, it’s one of the first essays we’ve seen exploring the MySpace/Facebook divide.

Boyd adds a disclaimer in the beginning:

bq. We don’t have the language for marking class in a meaningful way. So this piece is intentionally descriptive, but in being so, it’s also hugely problematic. I don’t have the language to get at what I want to say, but I decided it needed to be said anyhow.

But the “stickiness” of her language, as she puts it, is a bit of a problem, especially when you make such a piece public and post it on the Internet for all to see.

Basically, she claims that Facebook is for the “good kids” and MySpace is for the “bad kids.” Granted, we left MySpace long ago, but if we were a 14-year-old emo girl with blonde and black hair, we’d be a little pissed right now.

Her most problematic piece comes when she addresses how MySpace and Facebook divide its users:

bq. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm … MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

bq. In order to demarcate these two groups, let’s call the first group of teens “hegemonic teens” and the second group “subaltern teens.” (Yes, I know that these words have academic and political valence. I couldn’t find a good set of terms so feel free to suggest alternate labels.)

As Berkeley students, we’ve probably all heard “hegemonic” before and even “subaltern” too. Here, they’re a little too harsh, dontcha think?

Don’t get us wrong–it’s a good beginner piece, but it’s got some holes. Like what about the older audience that MySpace attracts? Sure, it houses a bunch of high school teens and music fans, but what about the recent flux of 30-year-olds and (gasp) even 40-year-olds? Do those people fit in according to the socioeconomic divide that Boyd claims?

This sounds like a typical professor’s comment, but … we’d love to see Boyd flesh out these ideas.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace [Full Essay]
Class war hits social networking sites [IT Week]

Andrew said:
Jun 28, 2007 at 6:27 am

The other huge problem with the piece is Boyd’s methodology. It’s really a shame that such a “beginner piece” is coming from someone at Berkeley, and so far along with her PhD work. It’s also a shame that her piece is receiving so much attention especially when there are other studies with quantitative research backing them up that refute most of her observations.

kitchen said:
Jul 3, 2007 at 1:13 am

i’m pretty sure db. made extensive disclaimer that what she posted was a think piece, not a finished/polished/vetted/peer-reviewed article or report.

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myspace is for girls who think their cool facebook is fun and awesome

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