Online Organizing: Social Network Study of Race and Use Clusters of Myspace or Facebook based on Incoming Class at Northwestern
Kudos danah boyd
We get asked questions about social network sites and use all the time. This is a great peak not just at the social network services sector overall but this article looks at some key infomation about the different groups each online social network attracts and a good discussion around the issues on why that may be occurring.
his study has considered how people's demographic characteristics and the social surroundings of their uses might relate to the particular social network sites they embrace. When SNS usage statistics are considered in the aggregate, the results only show a relationship of gender to SNS use, in addition to the importance of context of use and experience with the medium. However, when specific site usage is considered, statistically significant relationships emerge between race and ethnicity and SNS uses, in addition to the predictive power of parental education.
In particular, Hispanic students are significantly more likely to use MySpace than are Whites in the sample, while Asian and Asian American students are significantly less likely to use MySpace. Additionally, the latter group is much more likely to use Xanga and Friendster than are Whites, a practice that may be due to these services' popularity in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia (boyd & Ellison, this issue), where—given the immigrant nature of the sample—many students may have extended family and friends from earlier parts of their lives.
Regarding parental education, students whose parents have lower levels of schooling are more likely to be MySpace users, whereas students whose parents have higher levels of education are more likely to be Facebook users. These associations are not evident when aggregating all social network site usage, probably because the various relationships cancel each other out.
The goal of this article was to compare SNS users and non-users; the findings suggest some systematic differences in who chooses to spend time on such sites and who does not. Importantly, the findings also suggest that different populations select into the use of different services, posing a challenge to research that tends to collapse use of all social network sites. Most studies that look at SNS uses focus on one service only. The findings presented in this article suggest caution when generalizing findings from the use of one site to the use of other related services. A significant finding of the study is that aggregated SNS use statistics hide important differences concerning usage preferences within a diverse sample of users by specific site. Simply looking at, for example, whether race and ethnicity are related to SNS use suggests that there are no differences across groups. However, once specific site usage is disaggregated in the analyses, significant divergences emerge. Insofar as use of Facebook is qualitatively different from the use of MySpace, and these uses in turn are different from the uses of Xanga and Friendster, recognizing and critically considering these differences is important for SNS use research, regardless of the methods of analysis used.