Fans of MySpace and Facebook are divided by much more than which music they like, suggests a study.
A six-month research project has revealed a sharp division along class lines among the American teenagers flocking to the social network sites.
The research suggests those using Facebook come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college.
By contrast, MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education.
MySpace is bigger than Facebook. Facebook has also targeted college students with .edu addresses in the past. These may be two reasons for the class divide in the two websites. They were built differently and so the audience and user base is much different.
Dana Boyd's fascinating article, Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace, explains how the two social networks are attracting different users. According to Boyd Facebook is getting the goodie two shoe kids while MySpace is getting the alternative, immigrant, emos, goths, artsy, etc. kids.
The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
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. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.
Boyd also discusses how the look of each website may be attracting different types of users.
Most teens who exclusively use Facebook are familiar with and have an opinion about MySpace. These teens are very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and "so middle school." They prefer the "clean" look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is "so lame." 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. Terms like "bling" come out of hip-hop culture where showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued. The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I'm sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the "eye of the beholder" - they are culturally narrated and replicated. That "clean" or "modern" look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I'm drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.
Facebook appears to be more for the mainstream while MySpace appears to more for those intentionally bucking the mainstream or unintentionally caught outside of the mainstream because of a their class background. There are likely many people who also use both and have friends that use both of the popular social networks. These differences between the two sites exist but it isn't a clean divide. Just because someone uses MySpace doesn't mean they aren't emo or a jock and there are geeks that use Facebook. There are lots of reasons why people gravitate towards different websites. Everything from the look of the website to where their friends are. You can read much more discussion of this story here on Techmeme. These distinctions between the two social networks may mean young people are less likely to abandon a specific social network than previously thought.