A recent blog entry from Danah Boyd is making the rounds. In it, she writes about class trends she's observing in her ethnographic research of teens and social networking platforms. Nothing surprising really. A comparison of the demographic audience would yield the obvious. Since Facebook started out as a college social networking site and later included professional networks, the skew will be toward higher educated and higher economic classes. To quote Boyd:
Over the last six months, i've noticed an increasing number of press articles about how high school teens are leaving MySpace for Facebook. That's only partially true. There is indeed a change taking place, but it's not a shift so much as a fragmentation. Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Which go where gets kinda sticky, because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.
What I lay out in this essay is rather disconcerting. 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. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made.
Certainly makes for an interesting discussion of the shifting attitudes towards the community you keep as your socio-economic position changes. I would argue that there might be some interesting discussion about how this shift in attitudes correlates with advertising and marketing issues as well.
An interesting hypothetical issue to play with (to me anyway) would be to think of how you would choose to market a particular product advertisement between Facebook or MySpace audiences. We have some real world analogies we can make and assumptions to break about who spends more. Having more dollars doesn't naturally mean spending more as a consumer. It depends on the product being hawked and the match to consumer. If, for instance, you look at the market share of portable gaming devices to the share of home computers, the numbers indicate that higher income and more education is not the best indicator of spending with regard to these markets. As I recall from reading "Got Game," the Nintendo Game Boy has greater market penetration than the personal computer in their respective markets precisely because of the low price point and the economic audience they appeal to. You've got more people in lower economic positions going after those low cost consumer purchases in quantity, who historically haven't been able to spend the dollars for a home computer.
There's so much gray in this analysis that I can't make any real conclusion about Boyd's observations yet. Observations that have mostly to do with demographic differences don't yield much value to me yet until I find her correlations in these trends with something more than where teens choose to maintain their social network.