The new white flight: Facebook

The new way to prove social superiority is in the social media/Web 2.0 environment. Heaven help us.

Dana Boyd is a social media researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. In 2006-7 her

conversations with high school students began showing a trend of white, upper-class and college-bound teenagers migrating to Facebook . . . Meanwhile, less educated and nonwhite teenagers were on MySpace. Ms. Boyd noted that old-style class arrogance was also in view; the Facebook kids were quicker to use condescending language toward the MySpace users.

“What we’re seeing is a modern incarnation of white flight,” Ms. Boyd said. “It should scare the hell out of us.”

. . . More studies come from Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University . . .

Her February-March 2007 (University of Illinois at Chicago) survey of 1,060 students found that Hispanics were much less likely to use Facebook than anyone else and much more likely to use MySpace. Whites, African-Americans and Asian-Americans were all big users of Facebook, with 80 percent or more of each group using it sometimes or often. MySpace was equally popular among whites (57 percent) and blacks (58 percent), while Asians were least present (39 percent). There were socio-economic differences, too; Facebook users tended to have parents with significantly higher levels of education than MySpace users had.

. . . “Two years ago when I had these findings, people said, ‘Oh, this is going to disappear,’ ” she says. But that hasn’t been the case. While everybody’s using Facebook more, differences by race and ethnicity have not only persisted but, among MySpace users, become more pronounced.

. . . Her research also seems to support Ms. Boyd’s contention that social media “mirrors and magnifies” our social divisions, rather than removes them. “We can use technology as a tool to connect with people, but we can’t assume that it will eliminate all of the serious issues we have to face in this country,” Ms. Boyd said at PDF. “Pervasive social stratification is being reified in a new era. If we don’t address this head-on, inequality will develop deeper roots that will further cement divisions in our lives.”

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