Posted in: Technology

MySpace now a “digital ghetto”


Abandon your MySpace account for Facebook? You might just be a racist.

At a keynote speech during New York’s Democracy forum at Lincoln Center, Danah Boyd spoke of the racial disparity and possible reasons for mass abandonment of MySpace for the “more cultured” and “less cheesy” social networking site Facebook. Boyd, a social media researcher for Microsoft and fellow of the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, stated:

“We might as well face an uncomfortable reality… what happened was modern day ‘white flight’.”

Boyd also observed that:

“The fact that digital migration is revealing the same social patterns as urban white flight should send warning signals to all of us. It should scare the hell out of us.”

Referring to MySpace as the “ghetto of the digital landscape,” Boyd indicated that MySpace users are more likely to be “brown or black” and espouse a different set of ideals in conflict with those espoused by the teens she surveyed over four years. She said that patterns in migration across social networking sites echoed those of a white exodus from cities in the past. Boyd also said that teens who use Facebook are more likely to condescend their MySpace-favoring peers.

“Any high school student who has a Facebook page will tell you MySpace users are more likely to be barely educated and obnoxious… like Peet’s is more cultured than Starbucks and jazz is more cultured than bubblegum pop. And Macs are more cultured than PCs.”

Teens aren’t even the worst culprits when it comes to socio-economic social media judgment passing. The New York Observer cites a quote from Michael Wolff in an interview with BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine in December 2008:

“If you’re on MySpace now, you’re a [expletive] cretin. And you’re not only a [expletive] cretin, but you’re poor. Nobody who has beyond an 8th grade level of education is on MySpace. It is for backwards people.”

Boyd’s research indicated that the class divisions were likely to only worsen over time, as the media continues to portay MySpace as a seedy stomping ground for pedophiles and Facebook as a “utopian savior.” She contends:

“There’s a cultural wall between users. If there’s no way for people to communicate across the divide, you can never expect them to do so.”

[Image: Flickr]

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56 Responses to “MySpace now a “digital ghetto””

  1. tada

    Will somebody please punch Danah Boyd in the cunt for me. Nobody of 'education' likes Myspace because of the early teen design.

  2. Neuromarketing

    I've observed this shift, and have been puzzled by the stratification. Unlike our physical cities, where ghettos have been created largely by economic resources (or the lack thereof), Facebook and MySpace are both free services with no restrictions on membership. Any socio-economic segregation that is occurring is really self-segregation.

    The network effect – “I join the network where all my friends are” – tends to create stickiness around social networks that keeps people there longer than one might expect. Still, we've seen Facebook start to displace regionally popular networks in other countries, and it's entirely possible that even the current MySpace demographic could shift to Facebook if key influencers started moving.


  3. Kim_LaCapria

    My main reason for rarely logging into myspace is the lack of control over what will open up. You're either being shouted down by some horrible local band or sparklies kill your browser.

  4. Kim_LaCapria

    I think her whole point was the “self segregation” aspect, but I think MySpace is largely responsible because of their page structure. Facebook had applications for “self expression” but left more initial control up to the user so you weren't automatically assaulted by an ugly background or a thousand huge pictures that took three days to load.

  5. Jim_Lakely

    This comparison is absurd. Unlike “white flight” to the suburbs — where poor inner-city “blacks and browns” did not have the economic power to join the exodus to a more comfortable living environment and better public schools — there is no barrier at all to those “left behind” in the “digital ghetto” of MySpace. Migrating to Facebook takes about 30 seconds of computer time.

    MySpace is being abandoned because it's annoying (most pages I'd visit would automatically start playing the host's favorite and obnoxious music, and often quite loudly) but is also clunkier and less intuitive than Facebook. It should be noted that even Facebook is becoming a victim of its own success, becoming clunky and annoying to many users, who are now migrating to Twitter as a more streamlined way to socially interact on the Web.

    MySpace was, and remains, a social network for kids. To suggest that it is racist to leave it behind for better, more mature alternatives is quite silly.

  6. svancejr

    Ghetto's are not caused by economic resources they are caused by the PEOPLE that live in these 'hoods'.
    The houses, lawns, and streets are not taken care of so the whole “hood” is affected and eventually begins to rot! These “people” have no pride in where the live and would rather blame the government or whitey for the problems rather than standing up for themselves and trying to clean up and make a difference in where they live. PERIOD.

  7. desimal

    tripe… really sad how some people try to make anything racial these days, get a life boyd.

  8. klecko

    Gay marriage democrat , she also wants gay men to be able to adopt small boys and shower with them.

  9. Jon S.

    Am I missing something or is she basically surprised that most white people hang out with and communicate with and have family that are white and vice-versa for non-white? Agreed with the other poster that both services are free, so distinctions and stratifications can occur VERY quickly and simply represents peoples associations.

    This was just silly.

  10. keif

    Wasn't their also a related disparagement of the users of Google and Yahoo? Or Was it the yahoo landing page and another site?

    Correlation doesn't equal causation, but then again, Freakenomics was based on such, so perhaps it's worth gawking at.

  11. pat

    I've never had a myspace account. I signed up and left it. Mainly because a friend of mine recommended facebook, and I hated the fact that myspace gave users control over the look and feel of their space. Some myspace people have horrible even unreadable “designs” on their pages that I couldn't stand to be a part of it. Facebook on the other hand had a nice clean design that was the same for everyone.

    thats the only reason why I use facebook over myspace. that and now all my friends are on facebook too.

  12. Rob

    This article is ridiculous. Facebook is much more usable, aesthetic, stable and has more features than Myspace. The difference was even worse when Facebook first opened to everyone and the big migration was started. I suppose more educated people were more likely to be annoyed by Myspace and look for an alternative, and once a few of these people began to migrate, their friends followed, and it snowballed from there. People don't use social networks to meet new people, they use them to keep up with people they already know. White educated people tend to associate with other white educated people, in real life and so also online. Surprise.

    Also, I don't see how race could play a part since I don't see my social network “neighbors” by normally using the site, I only see people who I am specifically friends with. So how could race be a factor in somebody leaving the site?

  13. Michael

    The quote attributed to Jon Fine of Businessweek was actually said by Michael Wolff, the Rupert Murdoch biographer in an interview with Fine.

  14. Parse

    It couldn't be the MySpace's UI is crappy, could it?


  15. stevess3

    Danah Boyd is dumb as a brick. Is she trolling or does she really believe this insane drivel she's saying???

  16. thunderchild

    That is probably the dumbest thing I think I have ever heard…

  17. dasil003

    Wow, I've never heard anything so genuinely racist. You put people in quotes because you think minorities are less than human? Do you realize what a moron you look like generalizing entire groups of people whom you know nothing about? Let me try to generalize you:

    White people are all rich and make at least $250,000 sitting around an office even though they are morons who've never done an honest day of work in their life because their fathers are all connected to the good ol' boys' club dating back to the days when they built their businesses on the backs of slave labor and resources stolen from native americans. The reason China owns so much of America now is because white people are so self-entitled that they no longer are able to produce anything of value, instead they just make money by selling derivatives based on toxic assets and they don't go to jail if they do anything illegal, they just whine about losing their bonuses.

    Does this sound like you svancejr? No? Actually it IS you, because you are white. PERIOD.

    Fucking moron.

  18. pji

    I agree with dasil003 but I see a point in scancejr's comment. Take an example like Fishtown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – It is a toliet. Low class people, garbage, abandoned homes, and lots of drugs. It is almost exclusively lily-white ginger-haired Irish. On occasion, it may just be the filthly mongrels that live there… Yet, if they have a computer they can still join facebook.

  19. Mark

    What drivel. While once it was okay, myspace is awful in comparison now, it has become polluted with advertisers and has an poor interface. I am hardly privileged in comparison to most people in my society, and I switched. Correlation does not equal causation.

  20. snob

    And then there are those of us who use neither Facebook nor Myspace but stick to asmallworld.

  21. keisha35463

    You are both idiots. Svancejr, you are just ignorant. dasil003, you are as guilty as svancejr. People seem to forget that there really are people out there who make 250,000 who really did bust their asses to get to where they are. Why is it because someone is successful they must be depicted as rich fat cats who did nothing to warrant their success? Also, “ghettos” as you would call it… are most certainly affected by economic conditions. They may not be well maintained because unlike pristine suburbs there aren't always a homeowners association ready to fine the family who doesn't cut their lawn often enough. I'm not going to keep going… the only point to make… and the pun is intended…. the answers as to why things are the way they are … are not as simple as black and white.

  22. SuperJoe

    I think you guys are missing the point. The author didn't say that only black and brown people use it. She didn't say that white people don't like it because it's ugly. She said that “MySpace users are more likely to be “brown or black” and espouse a different set of ideals in conflict with those espoused by the teens she surveyed over four years.”

    So is she saying that black people live in ghettos? eh..Yes, BUT regardless of the fact that it was a dumb assumption, ghettos usually have just one kind of people. Whether it be black or white, they are usually in the ghetto for a reason. Or at least STILL in the ghetto for a reason. So Myspace is a place where there are a lot of black or brown people with ideals that conflict with normal society? I think that sounds like a ghetto to me. Is that WHY white people left it? Possibly, but you can't assume that. Stop reading too far into the facts and take a step back.

    And there is always white trash in the black ghetto.

  23. mot

    I think dasil003 was just kidding to prove a point — obviously it's not like that and both are dangerous generalizations of the situation. At least thats how I read it.

    It's interesting to take a look at how people organize themselves socially even without those economic barriers in place. Although the digital organization is probably at least partially informed by their physical environment as well (ie sense of aesthetics, community members that are there, etc etc). Of course I don't think we should read too far into it until the body of research matures though — we're still at the beginning of this.

  24. Melissa

    People like you are a large part of why I have completely lost faith in the intelligence and ability of Americans in general. Stop being so effing sensitive and take a look at what you're actually saying. You seem quite racist yourself there, dearie.

    It those people are thought of as “less than human”, it's because they are acting in ways that make others perceive them as less than human. They refuse to live within the acceptable norms of society and are allowed exception because people like you act as though they can't help themselves or don't know any better.

    Svancejr is right. Trash is trash, regardless of the color of it's skin.

    Frankly, I have much more respect for a person who treats all people equally be expecting them to follow the same rules, act responsibly and be accountable for their actions than for a person like you who placates the “less fortunate” by making exception for them, deeming them incapable of behaving as more civilized people do.

  25. svancejr

    WOW.. this just goes to show how wrapped up in yourself you are.. I must have hit a NERVE .. i guess you hate the GHETTO that you live in.. I think it is Funny you ASSUME that when i put people in quotes that im talking about BLACK people, Are Black people the only Race of people that live in the Ghetto??? That sounds pretty RACIST on your part. I didn't generalize any one race because every race has there own Ghetto's. I believe you are actually THE RACIST. Your a total ASS.. You don't know much do u. White people aren't white. There are many different cultures and races that make up the lighter skinned race(s). Just like all black people are from Africa,, are all brown people from Mexico???? And for you INFORMATION im not WHITE. Well my skin is white, but I my slow uneducated friend am NATIVE AMERICAN. That means im an INDIAN, u probably my people Redskins or some B.S. like that. The reason i put people in a general quote is because no matter the race, country, religion, every one has there ghetto's these are places that are run down and dirty, drugs, gangs and so called thugs run these communities to sh*t and nobody does anything because they wont stand up for their communities their hoods! These people have no pride not for where they live anyway. I have worked my whole life for what i have and where i live. I take pride in my neighborhood and wouldnt let a bunch of fools take over because im not afriad to take a stand. I think you should pick up a BOOK once in a while. You probably don't even know where your people come from. Ignorance must be bliss! PERIOD.
    Get a clue!

  26. svancejr

    Ignorant? keisha…. are u kidding me do u really think that its either the hood or hollywood? Your either poor or rich? do u really think that everyone that keeps their lawn cut and their streets clean because the home owners association told them too..??? are u kidding me! i live on a street in a neighborhood. Period. no H.A. nobody tells me to clean up my yard, there is no h.a. here. We just live in the NORM, we do what we are supposed to do so that are streets do go to shit. So u only keep your home clean if someone tells you to? LAZY

  27. vinnyvincent

    fishtown beats the shit out of …
    1. north phila
    2. south phila – non guinea s. phila
    3. sw phila
    4. strawberry mansion
    5. ogontz
    6. germantown
    7. kensington
    8. badlands
    9. powelton villiage
    10. logan
    11. any street west of 40th or with North in front of it.

    anything constant here?

    Go join ourspace and go wilding…

  28. dasil003

    You are triply stupid for not understanding parody. I'm not poor and I don't live in the ghetto. You fail basic reading comprehension.

  29. dasil003

    I “seem racist”? and “Svancejr is right”? Did you not see how what I said was a direct parody of what he said? The only difference was that I took it to an extreme so it should have been obvious that it was parody.

  30. dasil003

    Keisha, reality check. How can you read what I wrote and not realize that it is a parody of what svancejr said? It's supposed to be effective because it's structured exactly the same way, but it's so obviously an extreme stereotype. It saddens me that this level of discourse is right over the heads of most of the commenters in the thread (thanks mot!). Okay, to set your mind at ease… yes, I agree with you… your bland politically correct commentary doesn't really do much to highlight svancejr's utter ignorance though.

  31. dwinkle

    Blacks didn't stay in the ghetto because they couldn't afford to leave. I live in a nice white area outside da hood, and the cost of living is the same. Same public transport, same everything. The difference is, they don't belong here, and I don't belong there. Blacks don't want to be a part of white people's vanilla society, so they stay where things are black, even if they are hell. You can live in a cheap white town for half the cost of an inner city, cost hasn't been the issue for 50 years.

  32. svancejr

    im blown away by the way you put me in my place..sucker. U can't even debate anything, get over yourself. “it was a paordy it was a parody!” Yeah we got it, it was a parody, But it just goes to show your lack of intelligence. You obviously can't stand up for yourself and I can see that it just burns your ass when someone is write doesn't it! You say i shouldn't talk about something i know nothing about. I know plenty, You come across as though your standing up for people in the “hood” because you live in the hood and experience it everyday, but you don't (“im not poor and i dont live in the ghetto”) Are u what like 16?

  33. dasil003

    Oh, you got it did you? I guess if the whole thread wasn't here in plain sight maybe you could make a claim like that without coming off a an idiot.

    Also, guess what, I have lived in the ghetto before, and I went to inner city public high school where people were shot and stabbed on school grounds. Now I don't. You know why? Because just like you said, people aren't either rich or poor. We don't all live in the same place our whole life.

    Of course that's all beside the point. I'm not standing up for “people in the hood.” The point is that lumping “people in the hood” and saying what scum they are is a fallacy. The hood contains a whole mix of people, most of whom do not fit your stereotype.

    I'm not even going to go into the irony of someone with your grammer and spelling asking if I'm 16.

  34. someguy26

    “Black neighborhood” and “ghetto” are two different things. If your “nice white area outside the hood” has rent and homes which are comparable to a TRUE URBAN GHETTO then you most likely still live in poverty. If you really think people prefer ghetto living conditons you might want to do more in depth research than casual observations around your town.

  35. svancejr

    You my dear are one dumb hooker. Did u really just bust on my grammer? Im soo sorry i didn't format my comments to your standards. So u used to live in the hood and now u don't. Ok so did you even read what i wrote before? Your the racist here because u assumed i was WHITE, wich means nothing except your ignorant as hell, yes i realize your comment was a parody..its what u said right after your parody. “Your white, Fucking Idiot” How do you even know i live in the u.s., much less if i was white, your a fool.

  36. dasil003

    “Your the racist here because u assumed i was WHITE”

    Do you realize that this statement is completely illogical?

  37. svancejr

    Oh im sorry i didnt realize that because your black then you can't be a racist, I forgot that only white people are racist. My apologies.

  38. Sean

    Myspace has more privacy control. You have fine-grained control over everything, including whether or not to make your friend's list public. You can deny messages from people that aren't on your friends list, and on and on. There's also a light view of profiles that strips away all design.

    With Facebook on the other hand, you're forced to share your friend's list with everyone, and view every insipid update they decide to spray on your wall.

    Myspace's biggest failure is in making these features buried in your preferences rather than standard. Inconsistency is a killer.

  39. dwinkle

    I spent three years managing properties in that city. I met over a thousand residents.
    By the way, tell me of a “black neighborhood” that is not a ghetto. I've been to a lot of places, and I have never seen such a thing.

  40. blankredge

    “By the way, tell me of a “black neighborhood” that is not a ghetto.”

    Plenty of 'em in Los Angeles, dude. Apparently, all that time you've done managing properties didn't include time spent as a mobile notary.

  41. catfish

    I think the answer here is fairly simple…. assuming the comment that states, “friends network where their friends network” holds true. If so… does anyone remember the original facebook? One could only use it with a college email address. It took them quite some time and hearty competition from myspace to open it up to all users. So… if we look at the logistical data for college enrollment in the united states, we can see why this disparity may occur and can assume that it may have actually begun heavily dominated by 'white' users; whilst myspace was open to all… and therefor would have assumingly been naturally more diverse. following the natural tendencies for groups to migrate into clusters of similarities and/or familiar connections, it would be a normality for the two networking sites to become polarized following natural migration patterns…. the result, segregated sites.

  42. cherryisdarling

    I would like to point out that just because you are gay does not make you incapable of controlling your sexual desires. And just because you are gay does not make you a pedophile. Just because you are straight does that mean you shouldn’t be aloud to adopt a little girl for fear that you might try to rape her? No, probably not, because you can control yourself, so can homosexuals.

  43. cherryisdarling

    Wow and here I thought I stopped using Myspace because I’m not a 16 year old any more, turns out I’m racist…oops my bad. This post is absurd.

  44. Kain Odinson


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