In May 2006, a PHD student had this to say about Facebook:
Socioeconomic motives. People commonly cite the fact that Facebook was started at Harvard as a factor in its success – that these ivy league students proved tastemakers for the rest of the country. Sure, this may have been a slight motive very early in the rollout process, but I do not believe it is a critical factor. However, there are critical socioeconomic factors tied in to the Facebook. First, the class of student who uses the Facebook is a unique subset of the youth market. That is to say, they are the privileged class of youths who can attend a four-year college. The Facebook represented a place where they and their like friends could be found; I’m sure I can dig a study up where it shows that high school students of like socioeconomic and educational status cluster together. The Facebook allowed these like clusters to be transplanted virtually, into a members-only place. Compared to a Myspace or Friendster, where you’re forced into the pile with everyone else, this made the initial adoption of a SNS much easier for members of this socioeconomic class. As Facebook radiated outward, taking on colleges further down in US News rankings, it was a class effect that elevated the perceived status of membership, one that continues today.
Fred Stutzman was discussing something that Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook had alluded to, and listed the socio-economic divide as a critical factor in Facebook’s success. Other’s have picked up on similar themes recently, including another PHD student and social networks enthographer, Danah Boyd. Danah’s experience with her take on this phenomenon is interesting in and of it’s self. She writes in a follow up:
One month ago, I put out a blog essay that took on a life of its own. This essay addressed one of America’s most taboo topics: class. Due to personal circumstances, I wasn’t online as things spun further and further out of control and I had neither the time nor the emotional energy to address all of the astounding misinterpretations that I saw as a digital game of telephone took hold. I’ve browsed the hundreds of emails, thousands of blog posts, and thousands of comments across the web. I’m in awe of the amount of time and energy people put into thinking through and critiquing my essay.
I felt sorry for her, she was trying to deal with her personal life while a discussion that has done the traps before, about Facebook being so very Harvard, hit a tipping point. She clearly wasn’t expecting it. Timing always intrigues me in social media. Mostly because we control what is front page news now and when. Hmmm as we become a brand of one, through blogging, or Facebook, our ‘audience’ sees us as ‘Always On’ . My friend Vashti didn’t log into Facebook for 2 weeks and ended up placing this on her status update – (Facespooked: verb, past and past participle, the act of being overwhelmed by love and attention and pokes, heh.)
It’s not you, it’s me… I just got facespooked ok
You don’t agree? Think about this – go on holidays for a month. No email, no blogging, no Facebook. Send a few postcards (for those under 22, status updates in real world. :P) Now come back and see if you’ve been missed? No? Time to find a ‘real’ social network that really miss you then. David N Wallace quoted Adam Fields:
“There’s really only one rule for community as far as I’m concerned, and it’s this – in order to call some gathering of people a ‘community’, it is a requirement that if you’re a member of the community, and one day you stop showing up, people will come looking for you to see where you went.”
So Danah (wikipedia), take comfort that people went looking for you hon 🙂
I’m promise you I’m not going to jump on the class divide debate as it applies to Australia. I’m particularly not going to discuss whether the Eastern Suburbs/Lower North Shore of Sydney are Facebook, the Western Suburbs MySpace – Oops, just did. 😛
But for pete’s sake, can you imagine a company, looking to advertise in a mass market social network NOT asking what the demographics/pyschographics/sellographics are? Ok, the last term doesn’t exist but it should. Think about all the studies about how people choose to identify with a particular tribe – what makes them initiate and then subscribe to an online community. ‘cos normal people don’t wake up on a sunny Saturday morning in Sydney and say, “Gosh I think I’ll go sign up for a social network, for grown ups, one that matches my demographic”. Well, I do but then I’m not normal – off to play with beta IYomu – they are launching next week I think. Might write about them later. And TheBroth.com – cos I promised Marcus. And I have a blog post welling up on why internet gets press for addiction but TV doesn’t really. And… then can I go outside and play please? Have a great weekend my loves!
PS And apologies, I promised to post this ages ago. Danah Boyd in Australia – Brisbane on Monday, Melbourne on Wednesday. Another example of ‘Always On’? I’m feeling so guilty about not posting every thing that gets sent to me. Probably cos it’s not that much stuff but I need it to percolate for it to be meaningful for me. Talking of percolating, I need kawfee (that’s American for coffee). If you are interested in social networks and education, in Bris or Melb, go! then report back here!
PPS And someone else contacted me about a possible visit at the end of the year that I am tres excited about. I would call him the grandfather of virtual communities but I’d probably get my bum smacked. 😛 Not allowed to talk about it… but they didn’t say I could blog about it. Nah I don’t really think I’ll get away with splitting that hair either. Forget I said it.