Internet on campus: Facebook classier than MySpace?

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

A large percentage of students at the U and nationwide is staying connected through Internet networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, but personal economic background might influence which service they choose, a report said.

Students from the upper and middle classes tend to be more involved in Facebook, but minorities and those from the lower class are more likely to have MySpace accounts, Berkeley doctorate student Danah Boyd said.

Boyd, a student who has done extensive ethnographic research on these social networking sites, said the students who come from families emphasizing the importance of education — “goodie-two-shoes, jocks, athletes or other ‘good kids'” — are now going to Facebook.

“They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society,” she said. “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 for “kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm,” Boyd wrote. Often minority students who come from less-educated families are expected to work right after high school and “are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks or queers.”

The reasoning behind these statements lies in the origins of the websites, Boyd said, while Facebook was started by Harvard students in 2004 and was originally exclusive to the college-bound, MySpace has been always open to the mainstream.

Paul Kretzel, a U English professor who has also researched the issue, said this class distinction occurs not only because of the origins of the sites, but because users stick with what they know and pick the site where they can associate with people like themselves.

“They don’t discriminate by class, but many (users) self-discriminate based on what people gravitate toward,” he said.

Kretzel said students engaging online aren’t necessarily loners.

“For the most part, people engaging offline are simply continuing online,” he said.

Many U students participate in both Facebook and MySpace. Currently, about 11,200 students are on Facebook and 16,000 are on MySpace.

Natalie Nielson, a senior in communication sciences and disorders, said she thinks Facebook is more of an upper-middle class site because it started with college students and looks “cleaner” than MySpace because there is more white space.

Dain Segler, a senior in Japanese and Asian studies, also prefers Facebook because of the appearance and organization of the site.

“The advertising is horrible on MySpace, with the flashy nudity,” Segler said. “You don’t get that on Facebook.”

Other students said they preferred MySpace because it allows for more originality, and they are connected to more friends through MySpace since it’s been around longer and isn’t as exclusive.

“On MySpace, you can create your own profile, your own self,” said Hillary Wilkins, a senior in exercise and sport science.

Scott McAward, assistant director of the University Counseling Center, said these networking sites have positive qualities, such as linking U students on a commuter campus, but students need to be careful of information posted on the sites and not think that one site is safer than another.

“Facebook had the impression early on of being private space, but it’s really not,” McAward said. “It’s not like putting information on your dorm-room wall. It’s like putting it on the front door.”

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