Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Facebook-MySpace Divide

I've been off getting married and honeymooning, and hence seemed to have missed the discussion about danah boyd's paper on the class division between Facebook and Myspace. So please forgive the lateness of this posting.

Basically, boyd suggests that MySpace is used primarily by alternative, punk, and minority kids. It also has high usage among soldiers in Iraq. All this makes sense, since it started as a site for bands. On the other hand, Facebook is used more commonly by the elite, the educated, the "good kids," as well as military officers (which is an intersting note since the army has banned MySpace but not Facebook). This in turn makes sense because it started at Harvard and grew via college campuses.

I always find boyd's work fascinating and just wanted to share two observations in the spirit of adding to the discussion.

1. I recently spent a week in a small town (read: two roads) on a small island about an hour away from Seattle. While it claims to be progressive, it also lacked diversity of any kind. I bring this up because while I was there, I overheard a discussion between two high-school aged kids about Facebook versus MySpace. The gist was that Facebook was cooler. The reasoning? The Wall as opposed to Comments. Now there's a lot of things I love about Facebook, specifically the open source platform and the ability to import widgets to personalize your page that enables sharing at a much higher level than MySpace. But the Wall is no different from Comments in my opinion. I found it interesting that this seemed like a logical reason to someone for preferring one site over the other.

2. I have found that Facebook is competing with LinkedIn amongst my professional colleagues. While a few are on MySpace, most are on Facebook. Again, I would ask why? If both offer the general same functionality, what is so appealing about Facebook? And why do most of my coworkers here at Avenue A | Razorfish write off MySpace as something for teenagers? Again, I would suggest that it's a matter of perception. Facebook feels safer.

In both cases, the community has knowingly or unknowingly branded themselves. Or perhaps others have placed their perceptions on these two sites based on their own thoughts and attitudes. Whatever the case may be, boyd has made another very interesting observation, and one that we should acknowledge as we traipse through the digital realm.

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