I often voice my dislike for MySpace. I use Facebook, and feel uncomfortable enough releasing my personal information on that.
But today I read a very eye-opening essay by Danah Boyd, a Berkeley PhD student and USC Fellow specializing in youth involvement on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube. “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”, while not an academic essay, highlights differences in preference for Facebook and MySpace between “hegemonic” teens – college-bound high schoolers who are “in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities” – and “subaltern” teens: “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… kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.”
Boyd goes far beyond the simple observation that hegemonic teens prefer Facebook and subaltern teens still gravitate towards MySpace. She talks about public misconceptions regarding both social networking sites, and the deeper impact that the division has made on American young peoples’ lives today. For example, in the military, most of the enlisted, low-income, pro-war demographic uses MySpace, while higher-up officers with college degrees and more drive for upward mobility tend to prefer Facebook. OK, big deal right?
Wrong! A month ago, the military blocked all access to MySpace, but not Facebook. This is just one example that Boyd uses to illustrate the accentuated divergence between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic classes of young adults.
In reaction to her own observations, Boyd expresses a genuine concern for all of today’s teens; while there is a stark difference on the outside for these kids, they exhibit much of the same behavior on the inside, regardless of whether they write about it on their MySpace blog or their Facebook profile. She worries for the heightened tension in the Facebook crowd, which is college-oriented and focused on living up to goals for self-success imposed by themselves, and often similarly upward-motivated parents, as well.
Anyways, I’ve yakked about it in almost essay length myself. It’s a long-ish read – a few pages printed – but definitely very interesting if you like reading about diversity, race, class or youth issues. Read it!