Breeanna Hare of CNN.com has an interesting piece on how membership in online networks may signal social status. We excerpt the piece below.
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Is there a class divide online? Research suggests yes. A recent study by market research firm Nielsen Claritas found that people in more affluent demographics are 25 percent more likely to be found friending on Facebook, while the less affluent are 37 percent more likely to connect on MySpace.
More specifically, almost 23 percent of Facebook users earn more than $100,000 a year, compared to slightly more than 16 percent of MySpace users. On the other end of the spectrum, 37 percent of MySpace members earn less than $50,000 annually, compared with about 28 percent of Facebook users.
MySpace users tend to be “in middle-class, blue-collar neighborhoods,” said Mike Mancini, vice president of data product management for Nielsen, which used an online panel of more than 200,000 social media users in the United States in August. “They’re on their way up, or perhaps not college educated.”
By contrast, Mancini said, “Facebook [use] goes off the charts in the upscale suburbs,” driven by a demographic that for Nielsen is represented by white or Asian married couples between the ages of 45-64 with kids and high levels of education.
Even more affluent are users of Twitter, the microblogging site, and LinkedIn, a networking site geared to white-collar professionals. Almost 38 percent of LinkedIn users earn more than $100,000 a year.
Nielsen also found a strong overlap between those who use Facebook and those who use LinkedIn, Mancini said.
Nielsen isn’t the first to find this trend. Ethnographer danah boyd, who does not capitalize her name, said she watched the class divide emerge while conducting research of American teens’ use of social networks in 2006.
When she began, she noticed the high school students all used MySpace, but by the end of the school year, they were switching to Facebook.
When boyd asked why, the students replied with reasons similar to Owens: “the features were better; MySpace is dangerous and Facebook is safe; my friends are here,” boyd recalled.
And then, boyd said, “a young woman, living in a small historical town in Massachussetts said to me, ‘I don’t mean to be a racist or anything, but MySpace is like, ghetto.’” For boyd, that’s when it clicked.
“It’s not a matter of choice between Facebook and MySpace, it was a movement to Facebook from MySpace,” she said, a movement that largely included the educated and the upper-class.
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