Facebook and MySpace Represent Different Not Divided

by Marianne Richmond on June 27, 2007

Like Robert Scoble, my own family seemed to confirm Danah Boyd’s recent observations regarding Facebook and MySpace.

At a recent family get together I found myself discussing Facebook with my nephew. His sisters, who did not finish college use MySpace while he, a senior in college is on Facebook. When one of my nieces joined our conversation I noticed a certain uncomfortableness in her tone when she said to her brother, “Oh you are on Facebook.” Was it the educational class division that Danah observed? Or was it just an educational difference?

Danah ended her essay with these words, “So here it is. My Space and Facebook are new respresentations of the class divide in American youth.”

My two teenage sons are on Facebook and have both expressed on various occasions their observation that MySpace is a scary place, home to predators and weirdos. And their mother; who is also on Facebook.

My youngest son and his friends are using Facebook this summer as the hub of their social activities. Their social activities are mostly among the kids that they go to school with…and school as every parent who works from home knows, is out.

Facebook is a centralized site. Its organized around colleges mostly; high school kids are there but maybe mostly as it relates to college. I noticed that the high school graduating class of 2007 from my sons’ high schools quickly slapped up their college graduating year on Facebook as soon as they were accepted.

And, let’s face it, Facebook (and Danah definitely mentioned this) began at Harvard and expanded as a college only social network. You needed an edu account to “get in.” Later, Facebook opened the doors to high school kids and then finally, last year, the door opened to all….much to the chagrin of my personal high school kids. And I really like what is happening on Facebook right now.

MySpace, on the other hand, organized around music. And music may be what Jyri Engestrom calls the object that the social network was created around but it became much greater than that.

As Pete Cashmore observed a while back, “MySpace is a centralized site  but is showing many characteristics of the decentralized web.” MySpace and Facebook are really two different social network models. Pete went on to talk about specialists and  aggregators as two strong models of web2.0.

Facebook has become the quintessential social aggregator as of late, “the socially enabled aggregation platform” according to Hummingbird Mentality.
An aggregator of applications but a specialist in its focus. Its organized around colleges.

Facebook may be more elitist and MySpace may be for everyone else but I really don’t see this as “new representations of the class divide in American Youth.” Couldn’t it be that they are just different social network models…different, not divided?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gareth Stack June 27, 2007 at 5:27 am

I have to agree with you, in that this is more of an educational divide than a class one.

In Ireland we have a similar divide between users of the Bebo social networking site, and Facebook. It’s an interesting thought experiment to map such an analysis onto the Bebo / Facebook cleavages here – though clearly our class divisions are wildly different to the United States.

I’d make the suggestion that technical knowledge and computer experience is much more relevant in selecting social network membership than ‘class’, and that the impact of class most likely occurs indirectly through this and other factors.

Back in the 90’s, before social networks gained traction, the first website a user built often looked like this http://www.brettp.com/, but with time, ‘aesthetic exposure’, and simple, mature development tools, users came to adopt the evolving normative user interfaces; ditto with blogging.

As to Dana’s assertion that the use of a given social network represents an ‘outsider’ identity.. There could be a degree of truth in that. But, as you imply, this is more likely a result of the origin and historic growth pattern of each site. It’s easy to forget that Facebook opened up to users outside its individually approved college (and later school) networks as recently as Sept 2006. Myspace’s ‘countercultural’ popularity (should it exist) is almost certainly a result more of it’s original and continuing use to promote bands and artists, than any ‘rebel chic’ of this Rupert Murdock owned, advertising infested platform.

On another note – Jyri has an incredible video presentation – http://url.ie/4gz, where he outlines his core principles and more (watch to the end, for a walkthrough of Jaiku’s fantastic Nokia N95 application).

Marianne Richmond June 27, 2007 at 10:52 am


Thanks for your additional input…. and perspective from accross the ocean. I agree with you about the Jyri video presentation and think his 5 core principles are exactly correct.


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