Class distinctions in cyberspace?

July 3, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Tyler having a quick lie-downI admit I have a MySpace page but don’t really do anything with it and I’ve dabbled a bit in Facebook. But this article from BBC News – on class distinctions in cyberspace – took me by surprise. If you believe the hype, then social networking sites are supposed to be leading to a society based less on social status and more on connections between peers and like-minded people.

But PhD student, Danah Boyd’s research is showing that there is a sharp division along class lines between US teenagers who inhabit the two social networking sites. Apparently, teenagers on Facebook come from wealthier, predominantly white backgrounds and are more likely to attend college. Those using MySpace tend not to enter college as they seek employment following high school. Boyd also found that teens on MySpace tend to be from Latino and Hispanic families and are not part of the after-school social activities that occupy Facebook teens, such as proms.

Interestingly, Boyd comments: “This division is just another way in which technology is mirroring societal values“. So she’s saying that socio-economic factors leads to a stratification in cyberspace. You can read her work here.

I’m wondering whether MySpace and Facebook have created a whole new social class rather than a mirror image of class distinctions in “real society”. Maybe these social networks are “youth space”, which can’t be controlled by parents and other authority type figures. Sort of like hanging out at a mall in public space or private time in a teenager’s bedroom with the door locked. But it’s different because parents can maybe look (if they know about MySpace and Facebook) but can’t really control.

I think Boyd’s paper is well-worth a read!

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Entry filed under: Social networks, Social problems, Society, Web 2.0.

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