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Social networks and identity: MySpace is more black, Facebook is more white and Twitter is gay?

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911 danah boyd.jpgThe idea that racism killed MySpace is a theory has been around since Berkley pHD student Danah Boyd published a blog post and then a dissertation on the subject in 2008. She's about to publish a book chapter on the same subject, and a preview of it has been doing the rounds on Twitter, you can read it here.

To a techie, it's a funny one: more obvious reasons for the downfall of the network giant include a failure to innovate, buggy slow-loading pages and the fact that Facebook is well, so bloody good.

But there's a lot of evidence for Danah's theory too, mostly qualitative: she cites interviews, samples thousands of MySpace profiles and uncovers cultural differences in the social networks that seems to depressingly mirror the fractures and hierarchies in "real-world" society.

She also points out the very different roots of the two sites: MySpace - an urban site for people who followed bands; Facebook - a Harvard-grown networking site specifically restricted to Ivy League schools in its early years.

I guess the groupings in society are reflected in the Internet space. Writing about the case of gay people on the internet the other day, I thought that the internet was empowering. But this shows that in terms of race anyway, it can reproduce ghettos and limitations too.

But I suppose it's just a big old blank space for people to run around and do what they do in the real world too. Still to make a few sweeping generalisations from Danah's research and the Harris International findings the other day...

1) Black people more likely to use MySpace
2) Subculture associated youth are more likely to use MySpace
3) White and Asian people are more likely to use Facebook
4) People who identify with the mainstream are more likely to be on Facebook
4) Gay people more likely to be on Twitter (29% gay people are on Twitter, compared to 15% of straight people)

Well that's enough sweeping generalisations for now.

See Danah's website: http://www.danah.org/
and Shiny Story: Why Gay People Love the Internet

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  • I could have guessed that.

    Myspace is mainly music which is a bigger thing in African culture.

    Facebook is full of bored housewives and teenagers who want to chat.

    Twitter is full of gossip and celebrities and gays seem to go for that.

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