Class Divide Online?

Drop Internet knowledge, you say.

Alright.

I just read this interesting article (thanks, Jeremiah) from the BBC about how the FacebookMySpace divide among teenagers also mirrors American class divisions. There’s certainly something to this. Not to prove a point from my earlier Jason Taylor post, but when I search high-school classmates on Facebook, I only get 11 results; on MySpace, I get 121. I tried this same thing searching for my college classmates to get the upper-crust perspective (let’s face facts about the majority of peeps who attend Northwestern), but Facebook won’t return more than 500 search results.

You can take the analogy even further than that: the craziness and totally unfiltered atmosphere of MySpace and the guideline-driven, orderly approach of Facebook in some ways mirrors the way our capitalist society works: the people at the top are a smaller group who tend to be more comfortable working the system and staying within a certain set of rules while building a secluded and idyllic existence, leaving everyone else who can’t or doesn’t want to join in to fend for themselves in a Hobbesian-type wizorld. Most people are on the outside looking in, kind of similar to how MySpace has a far larger customer base than Facebook.

But while you can make the outside-looking-in argument against Facebook, it’s equally easy for Facebook to make the basic marketing appeal of “come join our pleasant world, away from the noise” against MySpace: the social-networking world of MySpace outside the refined, neat, well-laid-out confines of Facebook is cacophonous, confusing, vulgar and, mostly, really damned stupid. (Also browser-crashing. Can’t leave out browser-crashing.) In a mirror of conservative critique of modern culture, if principled web design stands in for societal culture, then MySpace is setting the culture back faster and faster every day. When you want a break from the clatter, sometimes you just have to clutter together with like-minded people. Enter Facebook: the U Street of the Internet. For those of you who don’t live in DC, that’s a fast-growing neighborhood with lots of cultural history and cool places to chill, but suffering a potential influx of gentrifiers who can partially appreciate the appeal of the place but will kill that appeal by their growing presence. Kind of like Facebook opening up to high schoolers.

Finally, there’s the way both sites are run. Like the upper reaches of society, Facebook isn’t afraid to crib coolness when it sprouts up from the ranks of the masses, so long as that coolness can fit into its defined limits. (Think new Facebook apps.) And the guys with the power over the MySpace masses know that they probably should do better with restricting the negative consequences of the free-for-all, like porn-site friend-invite spam and the massive amounts of junk, but too many people are clamoring for the freedom to put junk onto their pages that restriction would just invite massive rebellion. (Think the drug war or Prohibition.)

I’m a Facebook man myself, though I also have the neglected MySpace account when I want a nod toward populism. But I gotta admit, that clean layout and crap-free functionality—even if it’s just the manufactured invention of some web designer—is just so freakin’ appealing. I guess that makes me a social-networking latté liberal? Either way, coffee tastes like dirt. And I mean that with no connection to my analogy at all, because coffee really does taste like dirt. It’s disgusting.

Knowledge dropped.

P.S. – Sorry, Friendster.

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2 Responses to “Class Divide Online?”

  1. I’m a Live Journal guy. Can’t stand all that other crap.

    Posted by Doug | June 28th, 2007 at 11:59 am
  2. ima go ahead and take credit for turning you into a facebook guy. glad you are enjoying it, although now that they have made available an app that tells you who has looked at your profile, i am a little worried.

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