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June 25, 2007

A Question of Medium-Sized Sociological Importance (Or Not)

If there really is a cultural divide between the people who are on MySpace and the people who are on Facebook, as this draft of an academic paper suggests, what does it mean that I have accounts on both?

I suppose I could suggest it points to my own white-trash-yet-elite status (living in a mobile home while attending one of the most expensive high schools in the county, say, or being (very) briefly homeless while (also briefly) having Saul Bellow as my college thesis advisor). But since all those days were well behind me by the time either of these sites existed, probably not. Personally, I suspect it has more to do with the fact I sort indiscriminately sign up for these social network sites. This would also explain why I have accounts on Friendster, Okrut, LinkedIn, Prosper, Flickr, Second Life and etc and so on. I am a stat-oriented sociologist's worst nightmare.

Posted by john at June 25, 2007 02:14 PM

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John Scalzi | June 25, 2007 02:26 PM

To forestall the questions about the "homeless" thing: During my third year my mother and her then husband (now deceased) moved themselves, their worldly possessions and a multitude of pets to a small sailboat in San Diego, for reasons both economic and surpassing understanding. This meant that there was literally no room for me, should I want to come home for Christmas break (although my mother, who I suspect did not actually think about what she was saying, suggested that I should come down anyway; perhaps she was thinking I could be stowed in the bilge chamber). This lack of a home was a problem because we had to vacate the dorms during break. Also a problem: No money to get home anyway. I ended up scraping up enough money to buy a Greyhound bus ticket back to California and then camping out at the houses of various friends for the three-week break.

Should this be considered genuine homelessness? Perhaps not, but it was close enough for me to make sure I never went through it again.

Incidentally, my mother made it up to me by moving to Mexico a few months later (apparently the living on a boat thing wasn't working out for them, either), but keeping the boat in San Diego, which meant I could live on it while being an intern at the newspaper there. Living on a tiny sailboat with mom, stepdad, all their possessions and pets wasn't doable, but by myself? rock.

Pablo Defendini | June 25, 2007 02:36 PM

I think that since Facebook started as a (very successful) closed sandbox within the college community (and grew to critical mass even before extending membership to high school students and then to the public at large) the demographic makeup of its members will skew towards the college educated segment of the population, just by virtue of its incipient user base.

MySpace, on the other hand, having been open to anyone since its launching, has a more heterogeneous user base. Not that the study is inaccurate at all, as a quick glance at my friend lists on both services confirms, but since Facebook has only been available to the public at large for a year or so, it may be too early to tell whether the trend will continue, or whether Facebook's users will eventually become as diverse as MySpace's.

LizT | June 25, 2007 02:44 PM

I think you're a different statistic - conscious of your cross-spectrum appeal and also of making yourself accessible to all audiences, you are an advantage-taker of communication technologies.

I think there are a small percentage of folks out there who get this like you do, perhaps even enough to warrant a real label.

Steve Buchheit | June 25, 2007 02:45 PM

Sounds like tea-leaf reading to me.

Patrick M. | June 25, 2007 02:53 PM

I think it is just a sign of your desperate need for friends and acceptance.

My pop psychological profile engine 2.0 explains that you join because you are so lonely on the inside. It also says that you are a Libra and that your Life Number is -Pi.

John Scalzi | June 25, 2007 02:59 PM

A Libra? Them's fightin' words!

Steve Buchheit | June 25, 2007 03:03 PM

I think you're on all those site, because of the little ball of energy that is you cannot be contained on one (or even a small series of) site(s).

Carol Elaine | June 25, 2007 03:08 PM

Now, now, John, it's okay. As a fellow Taurean, I understand your anger. But being mistaken for a Libra isn't bad. It's much better than being mistaken for, say, a Virgo...

(Disclaimer: Carol Elaine actually likes Virgos and, in fact, possesses a Virgo rising sign. She means no real disrespect to Virgos in general. It's just that Scorpios are more likely to wreak deadly vengance...)

(Disclaimer Part Deux: Carol Elaine is also fond of Scorpios. Hell, she loves the whole damned horoscope. Now leave her alone, mmm'k?)

BTW, I also have profiles on MySpace and Facebook. Maybe it's a Taurus thing.

Patrick M. | June 25, 2007 03:16 PM

A fight? Ok, I accept your challenge and select Carol Elaine as my champion. I am willing to stake her life on it. What should the fight consist of?

Obviously, if Carol is to die in this fight, I would apologize for calling you a Libra. If she wins, I will continue to taunt you with faulty astrological signs, you late September, early October baby.

Liz Case | June 25, 2007 03:26 PM

Does it matter where you have a profile, or does it matter what you actually use? I have profiles on myspace, facebook, orkut, and livejournal. I used orkut briefly, then the novelty wore off. I only have a myspace profile because there are some truly awesome musicians on there. LJ - I actually keep a real journal, and mostly anonymously.

Facebook is the first social network tool I've actually been actively involved with as myself. The biggest reason: my FAMILY is on facebook. There is also a large contingent of my workplace on there.

Of course, being from Canada, there might be different statistics. As far as I can see, it's just exploded up here, especially in the southern Ontario are.

sxKitten | June 25, 2007 04:02 PM

I'm on Facebook and MySpace, too, but I'm a Sagittarius. Sorry for blowing your theory. Although I am from Canada, so maybe Liz and I are anomalies.

Does it mean anything that I'm on MySpace under this name, but on Facebook as the real me?

Tim of Angle | June 25, 2007 04:07 PM

Some people just have problems making a commitment.

Jon Marcus | June 25, 2007 04:13 PM

She opens the paper by saying that class in the US is a very slippery subject. So yes, you don't (didn't) fit well into a specific class. It sounds like she addresses situations like yours:

"My friends who are making $14K in cafes are not of the same class as the immigrant janitor in Oakland just because the share the same income bracket. Their lives are quite different."

Anna N. | June 25, 2007 04:17 PM

I guess I should say first that I'm a college graduate and I have a Myspace account even though I dislike Myspace, because several good friends blog there and nowhere else. My sister keeps trying to get me to join Facebook, but I haven't caved (yet...).

My first instinct is that the ideas in that article/paper are too simplistic. This either/or divide of the college/college-bound kids and the working class (or whatever) kids. Most things don't just have two choices or two sides; it's just easier to look at it that way. But I wonder how useful (in whatever context that sort of information might be deemed 'useful') it really is.

Jon Marcus | June 25, 2007 04:27 PM

Sorry for the double post, but a couple of other thoughts:

The paper is about how high school teens have acted since Facebook opened up. So to Pablo, the author is claiming that since Facebook opened, hegemonic (her term. aka upper class, goodie two shoes, jock) teens have moved to Facebook, while sub-altern (again her term. aka lower class, immigrant, "burnouts," "art fags," punks, gangstas) have stayed in MySpace.

And to Scalzi and the rest of us professional middle age types who don't fit into this paper...that's (at least partly) because it ain't about us.

deCadmus | June 25, 2007 04:28 PM

Could the fact that you've never met a social networking site you didn't like suggest you're simply, well... promiscuous?


(Signed: a Libran.)

Shawn Struck | June 25, 2007 04:56 PM

Second life? Really?

Care to divulge as whom?

Sam | June 25, 2007 05:08 PM

Is it just me or term "meta thoughts" used in any context sound annoying.

Anonymous | June 25, 2007 05:38 PM

OK, I am a college graduate, my sign is "Yield", and I am not a part of MySpace or anything like it. I just don't see the point. I am technically oriented, with degrees in physics and computer science. I have never been homeless. So what does that mean about me?

Corby Kennard | June 25, 2007 05:42 PM

I'm Taurean, too. (May 10, 1970. You beat me by one year, John.) I also have a MySpace, LiveJournal, Blogger, and Wordpress, and I think I had a Freindster, and a few others.

I guess I'm just a joiner.

Carol Elaine | June 25, 2007 06:01 PM

Patrick M.,

Thank you for your kind offer to have me as your champion in "your" fight to the death with Mr. Scalzi. I am honored. However, as I am a resident of the Los Angeles area and I once worked in the entertainment industry, I am unable to personally accept your offer. I do have a stunt double, as mandated by city ordinance, and she would be happy to take my place in such a fight, as is stipulated in her contract.

Please contact me with the date, time and place of said fight and I will pass on the information to my stunt double.

(Aside from MySpace and Facebook, I also have accounts on Friendster, Blogger, Wordpress, Livejournal, LinkedIn, Flickr, Photobucket, Yahoo, Google and others I can't remember at this time. I have never been on Okrut.

With a birthdate of April 25, 1966, I've got both Scalzi and Corby Kennard beat. I'm not an old fart, but I'm not too far away from Official Old Farthood. And yes, I do often wonder about these kids today with their loud music, walkie talkie phones, droopy [or way too tight] drawers and insistence in playing in my [non-existent] yard, from whence they much be chased on a regular basis.)

MWT | June 25, 2007 06:52 PM

Hmmmm. I'm not anywhere. :) Never saw the point of social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, etc. I have plenty of friends already, just from wandering around online pursuing various interests. Though I do look at Myspace regularly to sample bands.

I keep an LJ account because of lengthy pressure from people with friends-locked entries they want me to read. But it's mainly used for commenting.

I just started a new Blogger blog for "Thoughts of the Day" type things (linked to my name). Also I have a separate LJ account with entries themed around my job at a Chinese takeout, but the majority of people who know me from the "main" account don't know about it. It doesn't get posts very often either. Then I have a writing blog at Hobgoblin, but that probably doesn't count....

Old Jarhead | June 25, 2007 07:13 PM

John, I have already wondered if you had one of those "B" movie watches that suspends time outside yourself to be able to do what you do already. How the hell can you even boot up those other sites and look at anything and still have time to properly rear Athena and pay proper attention to your fabulous wife? Much less write reams of deathless prose?

At least as good a question is WHY you would want to have all those accounts when you have an insatiable fanbase demanding more books and even willing to trade filthy lucre to get them.

/s/ A Libra

Branko Collin | June 25, 2007 07:28 PM

It means you're statistical noise.

John Scalzi | June 25, 2007 07:34 PM

No, no, see, I'm too important.

Bookninja | June 25, 2007 09:13 PM

In statistical space, no one cares if you scream.

Lizzibabe | June 25, 2007 09:49 PM

I've got a friend who wants me to go on Facebook, but I'm resisting it. I *like* Livejournal. LJ, IM, and IRC really take up the majority of my time online. If I added another social network, then it'd probably cut into my reading and cross-stitching time. I've been tempted to friend you in IM, but that seems...I dunno...intrusive. plus, you spend so much time writing and Whatever, do you actually have time to talk to J Random Human on IM?

Julia | June 25, 2007 11:02 PM

I'm a Cancer. Since that seems to be important. (Yeah, there's a birthday in my near future...shoot me, I don't want to get any older.)

I think it's not just where you have an account, but which one you USE more. Myself, I haven't got either, simply because LiveJournal sucks all my time and I can't imagine adding another site to the madness that is my love/hate relationship with LJ.

I'm gonna read this draft more closely. It looks hilarious. I can tell you from anthropological participant observation that the users of LiveJournal are whinier than any other users of a site on the entire Internet. It seems to me that Myspace is a rabbling mess of twelve year olds who love saying naughty epithets for human genitalia, and I have no idea about Facebook, except that my friend and her ex can leave nasty messages on one another's "walls", whatever that means.

Bryan Price | June 25, 2007 11:09 PM

Well, this family has a six figure income - with only one person working! - and we're still a myspace family. Then again, the only reason why my wife and I are on myspace is because of the kids. And none of them have graduated college. Yet! (probably in about two years, depending, since the closest one to graduating is deploying for Iraq [shudder] this weekend). The wife did graduate, but from a now defunct college and the university that took it over (so they could sell the land to developers) can't quite understand why she really doesn't give a crap about the university). And she graduated in three years (she managed that at the last minute to actually graduate from the college, and not the university)

I mean, let's see, I'm on Twitter, Myspace, Classmates (though not actively) and a few other sites are noticing that I'm not perusing them like I used to. If you don't have a feed, expect to be ignored by me. So bloglines is running 10 hours/day. And then there's running this house and trying to keep blogging and thinking about what I really need to get done NOW, cause in a year it's probably going to be an empty house.

And I see that I speak too much parenthetically. Comes from writing like I'm talking, and I talk a bunch parenthetically. Enough to lose whole train companies of thoughts at times. (A statement made truly funny by what my wife does).

Janiece | June 26, 2007 09:06 AM

I'll take Carol Elaine (or her stunt double) for $100.00. I've arm-wrestled her, and she's a tough cookie...er...tough taurus.

Sam Taylor | June 26, 2007 09:54 AM

Isn't that a false premise, anyway: that people would choose only one social networking site?

(Sorry for the tortured sentence construction--I'm in the middle of His Majesty's Dragon. It's wonderful, btw, even if it does have more semicolons and colons per capita than the OED.)

S Andrew Swann | June 26, 2007 11:30 AM

I wonder if anyone has taken into account the idea that people who do social networking at work are at the mercy of web-filtering software that may dictate the type of sites they visit? Here at my day job I just don't have access to Myspace at all.

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