Monday, June 25, 2007

Facebook, myspace, and class in America

Here's an essay by Danah Boyd, a Ph.D. student in communications about social network sites and young people. Her thesis is that: "MySpace and Facebook are new representations of the class divide in American youth."

I'm not sure about the accuracy of some of the trends she describes, for she uses qualitative data to infer quantiative changes in large populations, but... she clearly spends a ton of time on the two sites, knows them well, and has some interesting observations.

Thanks David for the link.


S.S.Stone said...

Read the essay, very interesting.

Scott Kemp said...

Several years ago I read The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray. (It is too bad that the book got tagged as racist, when really it was class-ist.) I think that Danah is reporting what they predicted.

Knumb said...

I really notice this class divide trying to hire help for my business. My observations are anecdotal and pertain to the people under 28 that I have met trying to find an assistant for my business or that I have met working for my clients. I have about 40 clients of various sizes, so I've seen a lot of their struggles with employees.

There is a class of young adults that goes to college, drives a nice car (whether or not they can "afford" it), expects a well-paying job (whether or not they can actually get it), lives in nice apartments, etc. The members of this class do not expect, generally speaking, to pay their dues. My hang gliding buddy Ross is the exception that proves the rule. He took a management training job pertaining to kitty litter in Missouri in order to pay his dues with a Fortune 500 company. I was amazed that he did that because it's a rare attitude, in my observation, to be willing to pay dues.

The other class of young adults has pretty much the same expectations but lacks the higher education. They are more likely to smoke, more likely to have tatoos, have a nicer car earlier, and don't care as much about where they live (because they probably have been living there since right out of high school).

Very few of the first class are interested in the job I have to offer as a computer technician apprentice, basically. It doesn't pay well enough and isn't corporate enough. As far as the second group, they are more interested in my job than I am in them, and they expect more money than I am willing to pay.

When I was 25, a Master's degree almost finished, and a former Naval Officer, I couldn't get a job for $5/hour just to learn computers, so I offered to work for free and was turned down. Now both classes above expect $20-$30/hour to start, because they have to make their BMW or Ford F150 payments, plus pay $1500/mo in rent. Neither will get it, but if I am going to pay what I end up paying, it's going to be to someone who can carry on a conversation well, doesn't reek of smoke, doesn't have long hair, and doesn't have visible tatoos.

Chances are, from what I read in this essay, that young adult I'd rather hire subscribes to Facebook, not Myspace.

Scott Kemp said...

knumb -

I have seen the same syndrome. My solution: Hire someone who is over 40.

Knumb said...


My apprentice is 46, retraining from getting layed off after 16 years. I can train him on the computer stuff, I don't have to teach him how to be mature.

I met him hang gliding, which is good in that we have a common interest. It's bad in that I need someone to cover for me when I am in the air.

Jay Livingston said...


I looked at Boyd's blog, where she notes that this essay received a lot of interest. Her usual postings get "only" a few thousand hits. This one got over 90,000.

I forget -- is envy still one of the seven deadly sins?

Brad Wright said...

John, these are some really interesting observations about the hiring process.

How much of it, do you think, is due to the fact that you're in a big city/ SoCal?

Brad Wright said...

Hey Jay,

That's a lot of hits for her blog. This essay made the front page of, which has got to be big.

I'm skeptical, though, of the thousands daily number. Depending on the hosting service, a majority of them could be spam.

Blogspot is pretty good at keeping out the spam, but other sites not so much. I know someone who has to delete dozens of spam messages from his blog daily, so maybe many more are trying to get to it.

Still, her blog attracts *way* more than mine!

Knumb said...


It has a lot to do with the expense and style of OC. There is a lot of pressure to drive a nice car and even the crappy places to live are expensive. So, their salary demands are higher as a result.

I had one potential employee who made a last minute pay demand that cost her the job because she had pegged what she would be paid to her payments for her new condo off PCH in Dana Point cost (her husband had told her $25/hour wasn't enough, despite having no direct experience in my field).

Brad Wright said...

That's a funny & kind of sad story...