MySpace Is For Cretins!?

If you’re in the web/media space, you’ve probably seen this story by now where media critic Michael Wolff tells BusinessWeek columnist Jon Fine:

“If you’re on MySpace now, you’re a (expletive) cretin. And you’re not only a (expletive) cretin, but you’re poor…Nobody who has beyond an eighth grade level of education is on MySpace. It is for backwards people.”

Class warfare language aside, this controversy/story immediately reminded me of the blog essay danah boyd wrote about this very topic, which also generated lots of controversy. danah based her observations on the ethnographic research she was doing (the culmination of that research and more from her peers is now online). Having been “in the field” for the past year and half speaking at public and private schools as well as libraries, I also agree that there is socio-economic stratification happening on these sites. But as danah so eloquently put it, it’s not just income/education:

“Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace.”

I think subculturally identified and non-hegemonic are actually quite a big group - and as Jon Fine noted, there are “the bands” and their fans on MySpace. I think teens and other users who like customizing their profiles, changing the layouts, and adding other bells and whistles prefer MySpace as well as creative types with something to promote. It’s always been more public and self promotional. I also think MySpace has evolved into more of an entertainment destination site (video, music service, etc.) with social networking (lower case) vs. more of a pure utilitarian social network. Many teens now on Facebook still keep their MySpace profiles to interact with bands, check out new videos, get updates, etc. And one other point here, one MySpace probably doesn’t want to emphasize, but there are lots of tweens on the service since it is much easier to create fake profiles and lie about your age.

2 Comments

  1. Kathy H.

    I think MySpace also still has a strong following among people in their late 20’s who never started on Facebook, and are loathe to switch to something so “popular.”

  2. Melissa Walker

    Interesting! I’ll add that I noticed during the election that my blog commenters on myspace were much more McCain-oriented than the teens commenting on my regular website blog.

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