Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chicago, IL ---Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University in Chicago researched the transfer of real-world divisions to Facebook and MySpace.
``Existing social divisions translate online,'' said the associate professor in the Communications Studies Department. ``These sites are mainly used for hanging out with people you already know.''

Hargittai's research found there a difference by race, ethnicity and parental education in the United States as to who uses Facebook versus MySpace.

Hispanic students, for example, are more likely to use MySpace because that's where ``their friends hang out.''
Facebook, it seems, is for the more upwardly mobile. ``It's about who you know, what you're doing, where do you go, where were you on your holiday,'' said Shirley Steinberg, an expert in media literacy and popular culture at McGill University.

``Just the use of the words 'status update' has a middle-class implication.'' MySpace doesn't do any of that, said Steinberg, associate professor at McGill's Department of Integrated Studies in Education. ``Just the title, `MySpace,' itself implies that it's personal.''

She says MySpace users generally tend to be in their early teens up to the age of about 22, and the site is known for attracting musicians and artists and for letting its users be creative.

The same divisions don't exist in Canada, but that's more because MySpace has such a low profile north of the border.

``We are a Facebook country,'' said Rhonda McEwen, who teaches in the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto and specializes in new media and the information practices of young people.

It may be because Canadian academics who travelled to the United States started using Facebook and immigrants who came to large Canadian cities also were Facebook users, McEwen suggests. But by the time Canada caught on to social networking, MySpace was more for teenagers and not seen as serious.

Everyone from teens to grandparents in Canada uses Facebook, she says.
``The younger teens here don't know MySpace. They don't even recognize the term, which is really surprising to me, given how big it is in the United States.''

But for Americans, the lines are drawn and technology analyst Carmi Levy suggests no one should be surprised class division continues on the Internet because it's a mirror of society.

``The Internet is not nirvana,'' said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

MySpace was started by a group of employees at an Internet marketing company called eUniverse in California in 2003, who were following the social networking group Friendster, which also featured indie music.

Facebook was started at Harvard University a year later. Initially it spread through other universities before going global and its users are generally older. The site is now more popular worldwide than MySpace.

Canadians may not have noticed, but MySpace remains less buttoned-down than Facebook, even though it's now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which paid its founders US$580 million in 2005. Facebook has had many investors, but its CEO remains one of its founders, former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg.

``In many cases, MySpace pages are absolutely unreadable riots of colour and font and form,'' said Levy.

``The artistic community, especially musicians, have really hung on to that and as a result have adopted MySpace as their prime platform and not Facebook.''

AP all the way

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