Came across an article about trends of class differences common in the main user groups of Facebook and MySpace. Seems like the easiest route would be to somehow convince each site to compile and release a report on their demographic breakdowns.
But no, that would be too easy… So I respect the author for making a great effort to do the bulk of her research through interviews, both formal and informal. I’m no expert on research methodology, but the author’s process seems pretty sound:
I have done formal interviews in California, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. When I do this, I do not capture parents’ income but I do get parents’ education level and job. In each of these communities, I have spent time roaming the streets and talking informally with people of all ages. I have analyzed profiles from all 50 states (and DC and Puerto Rico). I use the high school data from these profiles and juxtapose them with federal information on high school voucher numbers to get a sense of the SES of the school. I have spent time in cities, suburbs, small towns, and some rural regions.
She also acknowledges possible weaknesses of not spending much time in rural areas or the Deep South.
The essay opens with a history of the rise of the two sites. Also discussed are the roots of bad blood between each site’s loyalists.
Next up is an exploration of socioeconomic trends among Facebookers contrasted with MySpacers. “Look and feel” factor in immensely. Facebook users tend to be
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.”
Loyal MySpace users, on the other hand, interpret what the Facebookers criticize to in fact be
“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.
So those are just a few things to get your gears turning. The author also points out interesting divisions in the sites’ user bases that surface within the military…
All things considered, it doesn’t seem like the author tries to stretch the facts to make a point… I think she’s on to a pretty intuitive but not-often-expressed difference. I’ve read the article once at this point, and just had some basic reactions. I plan on going back over it a few times. You should too:
Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace
[HT]: CPYU, “Articles & Research” section