teenagers and the myspace/facebook shift in use

this essay on the shifting use of myspace and facebook by teenagers is absolute must-reading for any youth worker, and for parents also. fascinating observations and thoughts.

the author suggests that the shift is happening along class lines. myspace is becoming the networking tool of choice for what she calls “subaltern teens”, and facebook is becoming the networking tool of choice for what she calls “hegemonic teens”:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

the first paragraph:

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. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

and, an important paragraph from deep into the essay, that i think will resonate with most youth workers (especially those in suburban settings):

People often ask me if I’m worried about teens today. The answer is yes, but it’s not because of social network sites. With the hegemonic teens, I’m very worried about the stress that they’re under, the lack of mobility and healthy opportunities for play and socialization, and the hyper-scheduling and surveillance. I’m worried about their unrealistic expectations for becoming rich and famous, their lack of work ethic after being pampered for so long, and the lack of opportunities that many of them have to even be economically stable let alone better off than their parents. I’m worried about how locking teens indoors coupled with a fast food/junk food advertising machine has resulted in a decrease in health levels across the board which will just get messy as they are increasingly unable to afford health insurance. When it comes to ostracized teens, I’m worried about the reasons why society has ostracized them and how they will react to ongoing criticism from hegemonic peers. I cringe every time I hear of another Columbine, another Virgina Tech, another site of horror when an outcast teen lashes back at the hegemonic values of society.

(ht to bob c, via email)

18 thoughts on “teenagers and the myspace/facebook shift in use”

  1. that’s incredible. it is true. i have an inroad with my youth with facebook. we can talk there when the comfort level isnt there face to face. it makes it easier to talk when we meet in the “real world”.

  2. Very Interesting !

    I just looked at the kids in my present / past ministries and the “lines” are DEFINTELY there on what “camp” they are in: myspace / facebook.

    the last paragraph you showed was very good. thanks.

  3. I’m acutally offended by this, I don’t agree with this at all. I just got done looking at both my myspace and facebook accounts and i saw that the exact same kids on facebook were on myspace. I fact more kids are on myspace than facebook. There are both jocks, geeks, college bound, music lovin kids on both. I actually prefer myspace over facebook, because you can show your personality more there. I can talk just as easy to my youth on myspace as i can on myspace. We should not be judging and seperating the 2 websites, infact we should be on both to reach all kids.!!!!

  4. amanda, i can understand you disagreeing with the suggestions of the researcher who wrote the essay. but i don’t understand how that results in offense (especially considering the extremely humble and speculative tone of the essay).

  5. some helpful reflections.
    in my context – my observation was that myspace was taken up by younger crew (say 13-22) and facebook by older crew (23-40).
    so our youth group myspace (myspace.com/ccecyouth) has close to 200 friends… but the facebook page has about 15 – only 1 of whom is actually at youth group!
    facebook is only just starting to take off here- so it will be interesting to see how true the observations from this essay are in australia in 6 months when all the myspace kids have had an opportunity to check out facebook.


  6. Interesting – I can see similar patterns. The whole myspace = music promotion thing, for sure; and a lot of the “alternative lifestyle” folks seem to flock to myspace too. Dave’s comment about the age difference seems to make sense also, b/c wasn’t facebook a “college thing” at first? It would make sense that, if fewer minorities are attending colleges, then fewer of them would be part of facebook.

  7. this is indeed a very interesting talk that i do believe that youth pastors/pastors/parents/teachers alike need to be very involved in and questioning. but this article is way to generalized and just flat out false. the only reason myspace might be reached out to those groups solely is due to the fact that myspace has been around for 5 years longer than facebook and that facebook has only recently become available to anyone that is not in college. i have both myspace, facebook, and the ever present UK Bebo…and the same kids use the same things. the only difference is how secure Facebook is in comparison to Myspace.
    good essay Marko but i think we need should look closer at the actual content of what is being put on these sites!!!!

  8. I would agree with the author, here. I do see the shift taking place, and the students shifting to facebook are the students that the writer suggested. There may be more students registered for myspace than facebook, but one reason for that may be that students switching over to facebook may not delete their mayspace account.
    As youth leaders, we need to be registered on these sites, meeting students where they are at. I find it somewhat laughable when i hear adults in the church tell me, “Jake, i heard about this Christian “myspace” (ex:yourchristianspace.com) site that you should get all your kids to switch to.”
    They just don’t get it.

  9. I think you are right Jake. All the kids I know have both but the trend is definitely as described in the essay. The facebook crowd still checks their myspace daily but their attention is focused on facebook. That last paragraph is very thought provoking and I’m afraid very true.

  10. I was just talking about this phenomenon with one of our other pastors today… then I “discovered” these thoughts. I find that many of the observations ring true. I have also found facebook to be a neater/cleaner/simple tool to as far as usability. Many of my kids have both. I do think there is something to be said for trying the “new thing”. For my kids it was MySpace first and now a migration to Facebook. I talked with another pastor recently whose kids did it in reverse. Whatever the deal… these are great opportunities for us to connect with students!

  11. I actually found the “hegemonic” label incredibly offensive, as well as lumping an entire group of teens into that category based primarily around their family’s socioeconomic status. There is a nugget of truth that allows for that kind of label, but that does not justify using that word to describe such a large swath of teens. I think the author is probably onto something in recognizing that different teens use different social networking sites, but perhaps she could choose a different adjective to describe her facebook teens.

  12. I don’t know about this. I’m a college student. I want to point out that Facebook was around way before teens got on it. It was a networking site made by college students for college students. At one point in time (not to long ago). You could not join facebook without a college email address. It has definitely progressed over the past year, but I believe it is still primarly used by college students, and as a form of communication almost.

    I think that if people haven’t switched over to facebook by now they won’t. It’s more of a comfort thing, not a difference in people thing.

  13. Quote: “I actually found the “hegemonic” label incredibly offensive, as well as lumping an entire group of teens into that category based primarily around their family’s socioeconomic status.”
    You can take offense as much as you want, the problem is that you are taking offense at sociological research. When you look at these various teen stereotypical groups, they largely break down on socioeconomic class. As well, the “The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids” are the ones who are going to college, often receiving the highest awards and scholarships. The observations are accurate– the trend may be late coming to your youth group or even your city, but it is coming. You can bet on that!

  14. If a person reads the entirety of the linked article, one would notice that the author laid out several caveats regarding her research, and she even noted that her labels were somewhat preliminary attempts to describe the groups she found. I am just taking exception to the use of the “hegemonic” label with respect to a large group of teens who may not all deserve it.

  15. this is so true about the work ethic and “laziness” of todays teens. if they aren’t on the xbox or playstation3 or nintendo wii, they are on facebok or myspace. trying to get todyas teens to even clean up after themselves, is like pulling teeth. and because of what they see on the net or in video games, transfers to the attitudes towards their parents and other members of society. the generation that is to be carrying on our “upkeep” is really making people think and scaring us at the same time.

  16. I think this article is just one persons observations of this myspace/facebook phenomenon relating to people groups in society.It is an issue we should be willing to discuss and debate without being offended by someones opinion. Iam not offended by this article, i respect some of the observations and comments, disagree with others and unsure of others. Its highly unlikely that one person is able to summarize accurately people, culture and the wonderful fads that young people engage in, they are merely able to uncover fragments of truth while present amongst it ideas. Saying all that interesting read thanks for creating such a buzz!!!

  17. I think that the “shift” is driven more by three things.

    1. The recent opening up of Facebook to include more than just College students. The jump is probably fad based.

    2. The ease of use of Myspace over Facebook. MS has no applications to add, and a person can build a complete profile and start cruising in just a few minutes.

    3. I think one of the strongest probabilities is the individual’s personality and culture (and subculture and so on). If a person is extremely expressive/artsy/bohemian, then Myspace is the place to go. If a person is mostly interested in ongoing interaction with other individuals, then Myspace is where they’re likely to go. Gamers and fun timewasting type individuals will find FB to be more suited for them.

    The bigger concern that I have, is why no one is talking about how Social Networking is changing our students drastically. Students are developing disconnected interpersonal skills, they are struggling with conflict resolution, developing new forms of communicating without communicating (think about how much of communication is non-verbal) and so on.

    I’ve taught a couple seminars about Social Networking. I’m interested in seeing what Youth Specialties will come out with. If no one else does, then I’m gonna have to write about it.

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