Social Class and Social Networks

About a week ago I got on FaceBook, and have been fiddling with it. I flirted with MySpace, because seemingly everyone–certainly every band–had a MySpace page.

And earlier this week, a friend of mine on FaceBook said he was “signing up for MySpace, just so i can network with *those* people.” Which I thought was a funny comment.

Then I saw an essay titled, Viewing social class divisions in MySpace and FaceBook, which makes a number of interesting points about the two. (I joined MySpace this week so I could take a look).

First, there’s the aesthetics: “[students] see [MySpace] 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.’ ” On the other hand,

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.

And it’s true. FaceBook is white–literally, white. You can add photos and all kinds of applications, but it’s still black text, white background, steel blue nav bar at the top. Clean, simple, minimalist (though my profile page is now fairly cluttered with friends, notes, wall comments, blog posts and books–not unlike my physical desk, in a way).

MySpace is … well, it reminds me of NW Expressway in Oklahoma City, near where I used to live. A big double-wide of a boulevard, with huge signs and parking lots and big-box stores and auto dealerships and fast-food joints. It’s colorful, and chaotic, and yes, gaudy.

Another really interesting point is how the two are used in the US military: “A month ago [May], the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook.”

She speculates that

Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a significant shift has occurred but it was one of those observations that just made me think. And then the ban happened.

In other words, MySpace is working class, and Facebook is middle/upper class. Just like my friend’s comment suggests.

But one place the author didn’t go was into porn. Er, that is to say, there are lots of pornstars on MySpace–so many, in fact, that there’s a website listing them: pornstarsofmyspace.com. (Warning: wardrobe malfunctions aplenty.)

Not so for FaceBook. A Google search on “porn stars on FaceBook” reveals no site. About the only thing risqué is an ill-advised photo that Miss New Jersey posted in her profile. Yet even while her virile friend is avidly clamping his mouth to her boob, Miss NJ keeps her shirt on and manages to smile.

So see? That’s class right there.

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