All The Good Kids Are On Facebook

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[ Social Media]

Through several months of observation, Danah Boyd found something of a divide between users of social networking sites MySpace and Facebook.

All The Good Kids Are On Facebook
All The Good Kids Are On Facebook

There are about 300 million people in the United States, and tossing groups into neat taxonomies of classification doesn’t always do justice to them. We strive to understand the world around us. Organizing groups of people for research always poses an obstacle to that understanding.

Boyd, a Ph.D candidate at Berkeley, wrote of her observations of teens in parts of the US. She gathered her observances on teens and social networking into an essay that reflects the difficulty of dropping someone into a rigidly defined class:

In sociology, Nalini Kotamraju has argued that constructing arguments around “class” is extremely difficult in the United States. Terms like “working class” and “middle class” and “upper class” get all muddled quickly. She argues that class divisions in the United States have more to do with lifestyle and social stratification than with income.

I’m not doing justice to her arguments but it makes complete sense. My friends who are making $14K in cafes are not of the same class as the immigrant janitor in Oakland. Their lives are quite divided. Unfortunately, with this framing, there aren’t really good labels to demarcate the class divisions that do exist.

Demarcate she does, with the Facebook crowd falling into a ‘hegemonic teens’ group, the MySpacers in a ‘subaltern teens’ group. The Facebookies come from relatively stable families, an inference we can make from Boyd’s observation that those families generally emphasize education and going on to college after high school.

The MySpace group encompasses just about everyone else. “These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school,” said Boyd. “Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.”

Reminds me of the line from Rush’s ‘Subdivisions': “Be cool or be cast out.”

Boyd’s estimation of such divisions comes from talking at schools and finding a split between MySpace and Facebook users, on the lines she came to demarcate later. Then you have those who really don’t fit either group well:

The subaltern teens who are better identified as “outsiders” in a hegemonic community tend to be very aware of Facebook. Their choice to use MySpace instead of Facebook is a rejection of the hegemonic values (and a lack of desire to hang out with the preps and jocks even online).

Playing organized sports and doing programming as a teen aren’t mutually exclusive activities; I know this from personal experience (so Danah, please send me an “outsiders” membership card). I’d like to see Boyd expand upon her work with a more formal study of social networking.

We’ve been told that the Internet is supposed to knock down such divisions, but we’ve seen plenty of examples where class distinctions of all kinds separate people. Maybe we just can’t stop being human enough to be more humane online.

All The Good Kids Are On Facebook
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  • David Lowe

    What Dana Boyd is describing in her paper is not new. In the 60s and 70s advertisers knew that they could not reach select targets by the use of demographics only. Thus was born the term Psychographics. Like Ms Boyd’s observation, they found out that a lawyer making $50K spent it differently than a plummer making $50K. The only problem for Ms Boyd is that this observation was made over 40 years ago.

  • Guest

    facebook just for kidz



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