November 10, 2010

White Flight from MySpace to Facebook

Here's a scholarly article by danah boyd (e.e. cumming-like lack of capitalization intentional) called White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook. It's based on a lot of interviews with teens. For example, one white boy pointed out that MySpace's tools for customization to bling up their sites drove off more cultured teens:
"These tools gave MySpacers the freedom to annoy as much as they pleased. Facebook was nice because it stymied such annoyance, by limiting individuality. ... The MySpace crowd felt caged and held back because they weren't able to make their page unique."

Unfortunately, it's one of those academic articles which could be about 50% shorter if danah didn't have to constantly puff up the possibility that the universally perceived differences on average between the races might just be one giant mass delusion. We're not talking about reality, you see, just perceptions of reality and perceptions of perceptions of reality.

Like the lack of bling on Facebook, that kind of Occam's Butterknife talk is a marker of respectable academic discourse about race: No, we don't find race interesting, we find our perceptions of other people's perceptions about race interesting. We try to make our interest in it as uninteresting as possible by padding our writing out with endless meta-ness. (We wouldn't want any MySpacers reading our articles, now would we?)

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is old news, Facebook being Stuff White People Like #106.

Matt G. said...

Social networking sites are alot like shopping malls. As Chris Rock has noted every town has at least two malls: The mall that white people go to and the mall that white people used to go to.

tommy said...

After Kat told me that MySpace was “like ghetto,” I asked her if people at her school were still using MySpace and she hesitantly said yes. Her discomfort in discussing the topic was palpable and it became clear that she didn’t know how to talk about race or the social divisions she recognized in her school.

Gee, how'd that happen?

“The people who use MySpace-­-­again, not in a racist way-­-­but are usually more like ghetto and hip hop rap lovers group.” – Kat

In trying to distinguish those who use MySpace from those who use Facebook, Kat uses a combination of spatial referents and taste markers that she knows have racial overtones. While Kat does not identify as a racist, her life and social world are shaped by race.


Oh, the meta-ness of it all!

agnostic said...

The main reason for the lack of bling on Facebook is age. It used to allow a fair amount of customization -- who here remembers how many bumper stickers every girl's page used to have? -- but they junked it when the over-25-ers began flooding in.

I mean c'mon, what teenager doesn't have a bunch of posters on their wall, doodles on their notebooks, etc.? Plus the bling allowed girls to showcase what a pretty pretty princess they were, like they were living an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen.

Most teenagers and 20-somethings had some amount of bling on their MySpace page, so I don't think most of the white flight was because of their aversion to customized backgrounds.

It was just a general feeling of "let's get out of here," not related to any specific thing about the prole and NAM MySpace users.

agnostic said...

"No, we don't find race interesting, we find our perceptions of other people's perceptions about race interesting."

Hey, what did you expect from a Gen X-er who went to Brown?

It's a lot like the perverts who were immediately gripped by Freudianism. They weren't interested in dirty stuff -- only the neuroses, anxieties, and perceptions that *other*, less enlightened folks held about sex.

Project much, Freudians?

Anthony said...

Gawd - I hope it gets edited before actually appearing in public:

"...black and Latino teens appeared to preference MySpace while white and Asian teens seemed to privilege Facebook."

Prefer.

That's the word you're looking for, Ms Boyd.

Anonymous said...

didn't bother reading the scholarly (lol) article

but

uh

didn't facebook require you to have a university e-mail address to sign up, for a while?

That'd keep the minorities out too.

Anonymous said...

Might this have something to do with facebook historically being associated with college. In the early days you had to identify a college alumni class to join facebook. Myspace on the other hand became hot with teens. So obviously facebook adopters will tend to be more educated (hence whiter) than myspace users.

OneSTDV said...

Since Facebook started at Harvard and moved shortly thereafter to Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Columbia, it's always been a higher-class brand.

I recall when it was starting to really expand that many didn't like it going to non-name schools (i.e. outside Ivy League and huge state schools like Ohio State and Michigan). Then, there was similar horror upon Facebook's advancement to community colleges and then high school.

But I think it always retained the stamp of its Harvard/Ivy League genesis.

OneSTDV said...

I also think every mainstrem article on race should start off with some disclaimer assuring the delicate sensibilities of the (academic/SWPL) readers: "Don't worry, nothing to see here..."

tanabear said...

This is old news, Facebook being Stuff White People Like #106.


Yep.

"White people were nervous but had nowhere else to go. Then Facebook came along and offered advanced privacy settings, closed networks, and a clean interface. In respective real world terms, these features are analogous to an apartment or house with a security system/doorman, an alumni dinner, and a homeowners association that protects the aesthetics of the neighborhood. In spite of these advances, some white people still clung to their old MySpace accounts. That was until they learned that Facebook started, like so many things beloved by white people, at Harvard.

Within a matter of months, MySpace had gone from a virtual utopia to Digital Detroit, where only minorities and indie bands remain."
stuffwhitepeoplelike

Poker Guy said...

"While my examination of MySpace profiles revealed that more teens referenced God, Jesus, bible quotes, and other religious symbols than uploaded scantily clad self-­images, parents typically assumed that the latter dominated MySpace and this upset them."

That the former dominated MySpace upsets me. It also upsets me that religion is the implied opposite of scantily-clad images.

Robert said...

Incidentally, does anybody know why Facebook has ceased to allow its users to list (in a special section entitled "Books") the books they read and the recordings they listen to? This purging occurred just recently. I have tried, but failed, to obtain an answer from Facebook itself as to why the section was expunged.

Christopher Paul said...

MySpace is the neighborhood where they leave their Christmas lights up year-round, the ghetto to Facebook's pleasant suburb.

Anonymous said...

"Social networking sites are alot like shopping malls. As Chris Rock has noted every town has at least two malls: The mall that white people go to and the mall that white people used to go to."

And then stupid white girls bring their black boyfriends to the mall that white people go to.

Anonymous said...

How about they merge and create MyFace?

Simon in London said...

"We wouldn't want any MySpacers reading our articles, now would we?)"

Heh heh, that's exactly what I thought while reading the article.

I'm glad I'm in one of the few academic fields that requires clarity of discourse.

elvisd said...

I stumbled across this "research" a year ago, and for a second thought about writing a parody.
Harvard sure has a lot of money to toss around subsidizing crap like this.

Simon in London said...

BTW from reading the article, I wondered is "white flight" in the US universally blamed on irrational "white racism" in the hegemonic US discourse?

Here in the UK, there was a documentary about the collapse of Detroit recently, from a typically left-wing broadcaster (BBC I think). While it did blame racist white cops for the initial black riots, it didn't call ordinary whites 'racist' for fleeing the city.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of MyFace, have you seen Friendface?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rNgCnY1lPg

Anonymous said...

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, attended Phillips Exeter Academy. I presume Exeter had a "facebook" like we did at Andover. It was a directory of all students issued at the beginning of the school year. The "facebook" contained each student's picture, home address and dorm assignment. I recall spending many hours looking at it in wonder of the Upper East Side and Greenwich/Rye/New Canaan addresses.

Anonymous said...

I'm facebook friends with some of the black kids I played basketball with in high school. As far as I can tell, they are the only people among my facebook friends who use their street names as their official facebook names. I'm not sure if that's because they like expressing their individuality more than my white friends do or because my white friends don't have street names or if those two explanations are one and the same.

Anonymous said...

White people really are boring, lame, conformist, clean, predictable, risk-aversed, ovine. What happened?

Dahinda said...

All of the real go-getters of any race know that LinkedIn is the way to go!

tommy said...

Maybe someone needs to launch a middle-brow service that leaves those who use MySpace looking like trailer trash and those who use Facebook looking like snobs. It might be called "FacePage."

Anonymous said...

Blacks now dominate Twitter. Check out the trending topics each day and see how many are black-themed.

Anonymous said...

"That the former dominated MySpace upsets me. It also upsets me that religion is the implied opposite of scantily-clad images."

Huh? Religion has been used for centuries to bring morality and discipline to the masses. Don't let reality upset you too much, gentle reader.

Anonymous said...

"I mean c'mon, what teenager doesn't have a bunch of posters on their wall, doodles on their notebooks, etc.?"

I sure never did. I had one poster, framed, from the Smithsonian. My girlfriends had that idiotic hideous crap. My teen bedroom looked like a room from House Beautiful because I wanted it that way.

Tanstaafl said...

BTW from reading the article, I wondered is "white flight" in the US universally blamed on irrational "white racism" in the hegemonic US discourse?

Indeed it is. Whites are constantly and uniformly pathologized, as a group, for fleeing (or protesting) situations we, as a group, perceive as negative. No credence is given to the reality of our perceptions - we are simply assumed to be morally or mentally flawed.

This stands in stark contrast to how other groups and their perceptions are regarded.

Anti-"racism" is anti-White. This article is just another reminder.

Carol said...

Robert, FB still lets me list my books and music preferences, but I don't anymore.

Elbrac said...

I once invited Steve to join facebook but he said he's too old for that sort of thing.

tommy said...

...black and Latino teens appeared to preference MySpace while white and Asian teens seemed to privilege Facebook.

Why is she privileging Facebook with the word 'privilege?' Is she putting down the users of MySpace who can only 'prefer' their choice of networking site? Is it not a privilege to be preferred by NAMs? If this is what she is doing, then how shall we ever escape the scourge of undeserved privilege if it is declared a priori that nothing NAM-ish can ever be regarded as privileged? And just what can we infer about Ms. Boyd's racial views?

Is this entirely circular concept of 'privilege' a social construct of the privileged meant to conceal real differences by declaring them social constructs? Methinks so.

Oh, once again, the meta-ness of it all!

Anonymous said...

I just checked out a few youtube videos of danah boyd and she simply doesn't come across as real intelligent.

Read her bio and you'll see that her original dreams of math and then computer science faded when she apparently wasn't good enough at either to get a phd in them.

Instead she bailed out into queer studies and banal observations on the present and future of the internet. She's pretty hot so I can see how she kept getting bumped upwards in academia, especially since she has the modern soft studies academic's talent of spouting endless intellectual-babble that consists of obvious points expressed with $20 pop catchphrases.

But you're not going to learn anything new or interesting from her. Again, though, fairly hot.

Whiskey said...

Its also about class. Nobody would mind being Denzel Washington's neighbor in Newport Beach, they minded a lot being Dennis Rodman's (the wild parties every night had something to do with it).

As SWPL notes, White people are obsessed with class. MySpace was known as the lair of flatbillers, rednecks, single moms moonlighting as strippers, people living in trailer parks, etc. "Not our sort!"

MySpace is for minorities and poor Whites. Facebook for the middle class. LinkedIn for professionals. It did not help of course that MySpace became positively over-run by advertising, by promotions, by corporate pages. Which have now moved to Facebook.

elvisd said...

"Gawd - I hope it gets edited before actually appearing in public:

"...black and Latino teens appeared to preference MySpace while white and Asian teens seemed to privilege Facebook."

Prefer.

That's the word you're looking for, Ms Boyd.

That's actually intentional. "Privilage" is a word loaded with meaning to academics in the various "-studies" departments. It used to be prefaced with "white", but everyone knows the term, and all the gyrations that go with it, so it's now shorthanded to "privilage".

Anonymous said...

On race and immigration, the UK is more conservative than the U.S. David Cameron can call for an immigration cap of 40,000 per year and no amnesty, but still retain a modern cosmopolitan image in the minds of the British public. In America, such a proposal would be denounced as racist to the core. Even most right wing politicians here are not going to call for legal immigration cuts.

In the U.S., there is so much left wing hysteria on race/immigration that no debate can take place. Tom Tancredo is frequently denounced as xenophobic for advocating immigration restriction that's often proposed by the Tories.

On immigration, insanity is the name of the game in these 13 colonies.

Cal said...

Oh, god, danah boyd. Do not get me started. We crossed paths at Berkeley, where I was in the Master's program and she was a rising star about to join the phD program. If there's one person who taught me how little academia valued original thinking, it was danah boyd.

The good news is that I cheerfully, according to her, spouted racist dogma in class and never suffered for it. She was outraged.

We had one class together, and the rest of the students were most entertained by my mocking scorn and her fury.

The professor did finally tell me that she was complaining and I should lighten up. But hell, he used to be the Berkeley librarian, and he had a reputation to uphold.

Of course, danah was the star. All of the professors loved her. She got into the doctorate program, a Google fellowship, and all the glory. All without a single original thought in her head.

It's funny, because she acted like a radical. She's a vegan lesbian Communist, or anarchist, or something. But her ideas are garden variety pap.

I, on the other hand, was a suburban mom from Santa Clara considered so radical that no one would take me on for my final project.

danah used to spout about the evils of corporate America. Except, of course, not very well, because she'd never held an actual job in her life. This used to outrage many of the older students but, wisely recognizing her as a star, they would just sputter and then nod approvingly when I, showing no such wisdom, told her bluntly she was full of crap and had no idea what she was talking about.

I'm really serious that she demonstrated to me exactly what was wrong with academia. And, as I said, she won. She's well-known for repeating truisms about online communities that have been disproven for 20 years--and coming up with anthropological "findings" that are so obvious she should be beaten with a stick instead of encouraged.


Once at Berkeley, there was an exchange about the possibility ofa single gender bathroom that caused this exchange. danah is poster #4. I'm the last poster.

The whole exchange pretty much captures Berkeley in all its glory--good and bad. Some of the male humorous responses are classics. And the next day, at least half the male students at school gave my closer a thumbs up.


http://www.theperfectworld.us/thread.php?id=577&postNum=98

corvinus said...

On race and immigration, the UK is more conservative than the U.S. David Cameron can call for an immigration cap of 40,000 per year and no amnesty, but still retain a modern cosmopolitan image in the minds of the British public. In America, such a proposal would be denounced as racist to the core. Even most right wing politicians here are not going to call for legal immigration cuts.

In the U.S., there is so much left wing hysteria on race/immigration that no debate can take place. Tom Tancredo is frequently denounced as xenophobic for advocating immigration restriction that's often proposed by the Tories.

On immigration, insanity is the name of the game in these 13 colonies.


Yes, well... even so: the USA is like Japan compared to Canada, Australia, N.Z., Norway, Sweden, and the new liberal Spain.

Anonymous said...

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, attended Phillips Exeter Academy. I presume Exeter had a "facebook" like we did at Andover. It was a directory of all students issued at the beginning of the school year. The "facebook" contained each student's picture, home address and dorm assignment. I recall spending many hours looking at it in wonder of the Upper East Side and Greenwich/Rye/New Canaan addresses.

This is the first time I've ever wanted to give a iSteve commentator a wedgie and stuff him in a locker.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've ever wanted to give a iSteve commentator a wedgie and stuff him in a locker.

Why do you want to give me a wedgie? I made a comment about the genesis of the term facebook. I'm not sure why you're panties are in a wad.

Wandrin said...

"David Cameron can call for an immigration cap of 40,000 per year and no amnesty, but still retain a modern cosmopolitan image in the minds of the British public."

Only because of the BNP. They've imploded a bit now but during the election they managed to force immigration on to the agenda just enough to force Cameron to make some promises (which he's now breaking). By pushing the scope of the debate out to the right this allowed mainstream politicians to speak out a bit more on the issue.

The take-home point being you don't have to win to change things.

(Although you do need to win a little bit for those changes to be more than verbal.)

James Kabala said...

Colleges had "facebooks" as well as prep schools. I think the fact that this is the origin of the name is well-established and not exactly a revelation.

Claverhouse said...

The Gathering of the Trolls


An Anonymous said:


White people really are boring, lame, conformist, clean, predictable, risk-aversed, ovine. What happened?


Civilisation happened. We can't all live in Viking times or as Corsairs in the Barbary States --- both of which periods included much boredom. On the other hand, I can't see any opposite qualities to those listed were one to live in China, Africa or the Middle East, for nearly all the inhabitants.

American black or American hispanic sub-cultures both seem ineffably more boring and lame than the dominant white sub-culture whatever the latter's faults.


Still, this blog has certainly been attracting a hell of a lot of priggish, virtuous, liberal trolls recently...

Anonymous said...

Tories plan to deter permanent settlement in UK by immigrants.

http://www.anglotopia.net/anglophilia/moving-to-uk/uk-immigration-more-changes-coming-for-visas-and-settlement-student-visa-crackdown/

I wish we could have that type of policy in the U.S. I'll tip my hat to the Tories - they have much better spending and immigration policies than our Republicans. If you want, let's trade politicians.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I also used to know "danah" socially. Just looked, and she and I apparently still have a bunch of fb friends in common. Anyway, back then, I vaguely knew she was an academic sumpin-or-udder. I eventually learned to avoid her, since she seemed constantly extremely preachily/touchily PC. And, ummm, Anonymous: not "hot" (unless extremely preachily/touchily PC is your kind of "thing").

Anthony said...

elvisd - I know what Danah is trying to say by using "privilege", though you're supposed to use it as a noun to say that, not a verb. But black and Hispanic kids "preference" something? Seriously? As an engineering major, I only had to take one semester of writing, but even then, I knew better than that.

elvisd said...

Anthony-

Yes, it's bad grammar. You're probably like me-cringe when you hear "impact" used as a verb. What people like dana do with language is do this on purpose to be "innovative" with words. It's a rampant practice with "-studies" majors, done self-consciously to appear that their stuff has some kind of heft. Since most of these people are hipster/nerds, they mistake such teenage wordplay for depth.
Consultant types, ad people, counselors, "facilitators", and the like play with the language in this irritating way,too. They're the kind of people who thirty years ago would want to get to the "thrust" of argument.

Truth said...

"I just checked out a few youtube videos of danah boyd and she simply doesn't come across as real intelligent."

That would be Real-LY intelligent.

Anonymous said...

The reason why "white flight" and white racism are connected is because NO ONE RESPECTS A GROUP WHO FLEES. That's why Malcolm X respected Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans more than other whites, because they not only built up their own communities economically but fought for their own communities thus other whites HAD to give them respect. Whites being scared of minorities and constantly "fleeing" makes them disrespected.