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The Internet United States

American Class Divisions Through Facebook and MySpace 373

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
Jamie found this paper earlier about American Class Divisions and Facebook and MySpace. The paper talks about the history of the two sites, what groups tend to use what site. They also talk about what proponents of each site think of the other. It's actually an interesting read and worth your time.
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American Class Divisions Through Facebook and MySpace

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:14AM (#19636167)
    Formalise "The old boy network" [wikipedia.org]. The purpose is to use contacts to improve employment and earning prospects.

     
  • by N3WBI3 (595976) on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#19636191) Homepage
    "She (Nalini Kotamraju) argues that class divisions in the United States have more to do with lifestyle and social stratification than with income. In other words, all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income." -- There is something to this where people decide to put their income and in what circles they run effect greatly their perceived class. This is not just a matter of being frugal but a matter of using money as a tool and the difference between how you use that tool. I have friends who make 50K who own a boat, two cars, a motorcycle, and their home. They are also constantly in trouble with their debt. If one did not know them and looked at them they would see upper middle class family. even though they are on the cusp of losing everything. I have another set of friends who make less than 20K who rent an appt but have been steadily building assets and paying off student debt, one looking from the outside would see them as being impoverished but in reality they are living sustainability have a ton of time together and live a very rich life (though no boat). When a scientist, especially a social scientist, trys to say this is what class is they are going to be wrong (just as I would be wrong) because being a mamber of a class can relate to any aspect of our being. I am a white male (that puts me in a class), I make $Salary that puts me in a class, I own a home, I am in a mixed race relationship, I have two kids, I take the bus to work, I'm 30, ... All of these things put me in a box and some of those boxes conflict with others...
  • Missing 3rd Class (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vexor (947598) on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:22AM (#19636305)
    By 3rd I don't mean "lower" or "poor". I mean the 3rd class who doesn't use either or gives a damn about either site.
  • by nickhart (1009937) <nickhart@gmail.COUGARcom minus cat> on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:28AM (#19636367) Homepage
    Class isn't about how much money you make or your ethnicity. Class is all about one's relation to the means of production. If you own a factory, then you exploit labor in order to make a profit--you're a capitalist. If you are forced to sell your labor power for a living, then you're working class. "Middle class" is an invention that tries to segment the upper-income portion of the working class into a separate group and argues that they have different class interests than other working class people--which isn't true (although it doesn't preclude "middle class" people from having false consciousness--holding ideas that they have more in common with the capitalists). All working class people have an interest in a clean environment, safe working conditions, free universal health care, an end to war, equal pay for equal work, better education, jobs, etc... The ruling capitalist class has no interest in those things because their interest is in gaining more profit.

  • by plover (150551) * on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:39AM (#19636531) Homepage Journal
    The paper wasn't saying that the web sites are the sole determiner of class, or that the sites were being used to somehow "navigate" class (hey, if I sign up for Facebook I am suddenly a member of the Millionaire's Club!), only that class distinctions are becoming apparent based on samples of each site.

    I think the distinctions the paper's author has noted are simply reflections of class that are held by the participants. The separations are much deeper than a simple web site. As a comedian recently noted with respect to Brittney Spears, "you can take the trash out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the trash."

    I would be much more interested if the paper's author found people who successfully used social networking sites to actually "change classes". Can you climb the ladder of success by ingratiating yourself with your hegemons, or will you always be snubbed as an "upstart"?

  • Re:Care2 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mockylock (1087585) on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:47AM (#19636643) Homepage
    The only thing I've found myspace good for is running into old high school friends. When I moved out of town, I lost touch with tons of people, but I was able to find them again through other friends down the line. Aside from that, it's a breeding ground for pedofiles.
  • Class in America (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vegeta99 (219501) <rjlynn@gmai l . com> on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:08PM (#19636963)
    You know, this paper could be extended into many different areas.

    As this paper says, class is very hard to define in America - in the United States, class can be more about culture and lifestyle than income or job description.

    I'll give you an anecdotal example. I'm a college student, but during summers, I work in factories as a laborer. In the cafeteria, I look more like a supervisor than a laborer. My car is old, but perfectly clean, inside and out. I keep my clothes as clean as the work allows, and my shirts are usually ironed and tucked in, my boots clean, my hard hat clean. Most of the laborers, who are living on a HIGHER wage than I because I'm usually a temp worker, do not. What is important to them is not their aesthetics - especially at work. What is important to them is enjoying their lives. Work is secondary, and not really enjoyable. I'll agree with them on the second part, but where the division is in the importance of work. They have a job, not a career.

    This "paper" hits on this. If your work is important to you, you have to follow that work. I haven't read the book by Paul Willis that the paper sums up, but it's true. I am a high school dropout, I planned on joining the military as an enlistee, not as an officer candidate. But his summary is quite correct in my case. I made that "class jump" - I'm not made to do mundane labor 60 hours a week, I have a brain and I need to use it.

    Now, when I DO go to my hometown, my old friends are, well, not my friends anymore. They don't understand how I can value paying 250% of my yearly income to go to SCHOOL, how I can spend months preparing for a fifteen minute presentation, much less fathom seven years of training for the ability, not the guarantee of a job. They don't see the point in dedicating oneself fully to the "system" because they think it will stick them in some sort of hierarchy and force them to follow rules. What they unfortunately miss is that the blue collar circle sticks them in an even more restrictive hierarchy. You don't do consulting work as a press operator!

    This certainly fits with the division seen between MySpace and Facebook. MySpace allows one to do whatever they want with their page - conventions be damned. Facebook, on the other hand, has a set style and layout (or did. The applications are slowly changing that). But when push comes to shove, the "hierarchy" and layout of Facebook gives users a bit more useful information - try finding someone's AOL s/n on MySpace if you've never seen their page before, and then try the same on Facebook!
  • Geeks on Myspace? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot DOT kadin AT xoxy DOT net> on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:14PM (#19637045) Homepage Journal
    There are geeks on Myspace? Really?

    How can anyone with any appreciation for coding -- or, for that matter, aesthetics in general, at all -- go near MySpace? Every time I go there (and I do this every few months, just to see if it's changed) it's like some circus side-show of bad design.

    The whole concept is flawed; the site takes what's inherently repetitive, structured data, and just lets people dump it into tag-soup HTML pages. Facebook's approach is far more elegant, not to mention pleasant to view.
  • by prgrmr (568806) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:15PM (#19637059) Journal
    Style and vocabularly aside, it was a damn good essay if only because she stated her assumptions up front, pointed out what she couldn't honestly quantify, and set clear expectation about not just the conclusion but about the understanding of her methods. So in that regard, I would say that her paper was more honest than much of the so-called scientific articles on the Internet these days.
  • Nothing new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wytcld (179112) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:21PM (#19637165) Homepage
    Most of the modded-up comments so far are of the "Nothing new here" meme. These demonstrate the problem of even getting traction on a vocabularly to discuss class issues in America. People tune it out, perhaps think its always been as it is now so why even discuss it. But it hasn't always been this way. The last time such a high proportion of American wealth went to the top 1 percent of the population was just before the Great Depression. America used to have much greater social mobility - the likelihood that a kid from a poor background would become rich and socially respected - than anywhere else. Now America has slipped behind most of Western Europe in social mobility - behind even such more-obviously class-based societies as the British and the French, and way behind where America itself was in the mid-20th century.

    This stratification shows up across the culture. But it has not always been here to the extent it is today. Economic historians claim that stratified societies - particularly those where children are locked in to the strata of their parents - are in the longer run neither so stable nor so successful as more egalitarian nations. America's own past success vis a vis Europe is cited as a prime example. If that's the case, we might want to take America back to a more egalitarian version. Back when America was more egalitarian there was a more unified cultural aesthetic - splitting more on generational than class fractures (which is to say, on direction of progress but still assuming that progress belonged to all). Now, if the fine article is accurate (I'm too old to know) there is a distinct split in aesthetic and sensibility, as demonstrated in the SNS's - one which favors acceptance of our new degree of social stratification. If we want to avoid developing a large permanent underclass, we should look at reversing that.

    The article makes the useful point that social identification is not tightly linked to income. But the income equation is itself troubling for egalitarians: In the past 40 years the GDP per capita has doubled. Yet in that time the median income has stayed level. We're twice as rich, per person, as a nation. But those on the middle and lower parts of the income curve have seen none of the gain. This isn't to say that being median-income in the '60s was a bad life; nor that it's a bad life now. But it raises a very curious question of who has made off with all that gain in national wealth. And there's a corollary: How have our cultural institutions enabled them, wittingly or not?
  • by NDPTAL85 (260093) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:23PM (#19637197)
    ...into thinking you were dead huh?

    Your definition of "class" is true. Its 100% true as Karl Marx described it. The only problem is he was wrong. There aren't just two classes. There are 3. His and your refusal to acknowledge that does not make you right. Yes those who own the means of production are the truly wealthy and everyone else works for them. But a "worker" who makes $250,000 a year has very little in common with someone who makes $19,000 a year. Their concerns are as different from each other as a middle class person's is from a deca millionaires. This is why Marx's foretold economic revolutions never took place. There's plenty for the poor to gain by revolting, but the middle class would have a lot to lose and so they declined to join in. Without the middle class participating the revolutions could not take place.

    The failure of the old school definiton of class into two systems is that it tries to lump way too many people together under one banner. A doctor/lawyer/engineer/writer/executive who's making anyhere from $250,000 a year up to say $5 million a year lives in an entirely diferrent world from a school teacher/cop/fireman/factory worker/garbage man/retail clerk/fast food worker who makes anywhere from $19,000 to $130,000 a year. The former group lives in a better neighborhood, sends their kids to better schools, enjoys more travel and better vacations, has a much nicer house some with a second home, has substantial savings and a much better retirement plan and can make choices about where to work and who to work for. The bottom half of the latter group is working hard just to scrape out a living and make ends meet. They have few real chocies on what to do with their lives. They don't have adequate healthcare and no buffer of savings in the bank if they lose their job. Their children rarely go on to higher education.

    The third group of course are the obviously wealthy. Those who are so rich that from birth they never have to work a day in their lives if they don't want to. This equals at least $15 million in the bank with additional money from investments/interest coming in all the time.

    The two groups are not alike. They do not share class interests. They don't eat at the same places, they don't party at the same places and they don't live in the same places. They're extremely different from each other. Those who cling to Marx's distinction of class as being between only 2 parties are bitter, very very bitter, that the middle class actually exists. They want anyone who's not part of the "rich" class to team up together and gang up on the rich and take back whats "rightfully theirs" or some such. If this large nebulous class of "workers" is divided between the "middle class" and the "really poor" than that revolution can't happen. Not while our middle class is as large as it is because it means way too many people are satisified with what they have and know they have far too much to lose if they were to engage in an economy wrecking "revolution."

    So to recap, there's an old school definition of class that contains only 2 divisions. Capital owning robber barrons on one side and ALL the people who work for them on the other side. The "modern" definition of economic class has 3 divisions. The capital owning class, the highly educated and highly paid middle class, and the working poor. Good luck with trying to get well educated and well paid middle class folks to consider themselves the same as a high school drop out garbage man or fast food worker. You've got your work cut out for you.
  • Re:Care2 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OverlordsShadow (1034748) <joejack@sasktel.net> on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:23PM (#19637201) Homepage
    Thats crap. Myspace and Facebook are for kids setting up parties, putting up pictures of themselves with very little clothing on and pictures of drunken mayhem. They are like personal ads and a be my friend because I have nothing else to do but sit here on msn and put up a profile with pics of my and my friends so that anyone in the world can look at me, get my msn, and then piss my off when they start preying on me. Some people have legit spaces where they put up pictures of holidays and school trips but by and large it is a big excuse to try and be 'cool' online. Who the fuck has 200 friends? Who has 20 friends? Who has more than 5-10 close friends? Exactly. But on myspace and facebook some people have hundreds of friends, most of whom they don't talk to, lots of which are probly just a cute guy or girl whose profile they liked. This, mainly because of the young demographic. Not limited to the young ones though. My coworker had a bad runin with facebook last month. Basically used his space and frieds to spread stories and lies. Went totally psycho. But I have a bias and don't really use these sites but get invited all the time. Pretty much hate them but can see their use. (Lets start a group on facebook/myspace 'One legged, bearded, 5.5 feet tall, brown hair, pink eyes, and totally drunk group' and see who the hell joins it trying to belong.)
  • by darjen (879890) on Monday June 25, 2007 @01:08PM (#19637787)
    Fair enough...

    So in a Marxist utopia, does one produce everything they consume? If not, how do they obtain things to survive that they don't produce? And if they trade what they produce for other goods, are they not selling their labor (or the result of their labor)?
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Monday June 25, 2007 @03:14PM (#19639509) Homepage
    You have a point, but are over-estimating it's value.

    Much of what the author did could have been done by stating:

    "As kids don't have their real jobs yet, it is harder to tell what their personal class is. We can either go by their parent's class, or by an estimate of what the kid's job will be eventually, based on whether they are on the college track, the military track, or the lowe end job track. While both methods have their problems, I choose to use the estimate based on track method."

    While normally scientists would use the parent's class method, as you seem to think is appropriate, I do believe that his arguments are pretty convincing.

    Given that information, I can not consider this to be a no true scotsman fallacy. While he is using a slight new definition, it is in an area where the typical definition is not useable, and I find much of his work to be interesting. Perhaps a better analysis will ocure in 10 years, when we can see whether his 'college/military/other' track concept was in fact a good estiamte of actual social class. More importantly, it might be surprising if we found out that people in the college track that went with Facebook were more likely to end up in the upper class then those that were on the college track but did not have Facebook.

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Monday June 25, 2007 @03:28PM (#19639711)
    Somehow, a combination of Congress and the IRS accidentally broke the classes down. The IRS created code 401(k), and all of a sudden, the middle class had an incentive to own wealth.

    If you look at the social security reform debate, behind all the verbiage of "ownership society" or "risky scheme," at the heart of the debate was ownership of assets. If individuals own the assets, then they owned the means of production.

    Compare a 401(k) account to a pension. In both cases, the money is tied up on stocks and bonds, growing accordingly. Economically, they appear similar. However, there is a crucial difference. The 401(k) owner actually owns assets, which can be passed along to offspring as an inheritance, or sold and used for their lifestyle. A pensioner receives a monthly check while alive, but owns none of the underlying assets behind their monthly check.

    In modern America, there aren't "capitalist" and "workers," because the workers may own stock in the corporation through 401(k) matches in company stock, and the overextended managers may be using debt to finance a lavish lifestyle. Class in America is often tied to expenditures, not income, although certain "fields" are considered higher class. The upper-income Doctor or Lawyer will not see themselves as "the same" as an IT Consultant with comparable income, because the former tie their class status not to what they do but to their education. This is why Doctors are seen as higher "class" than lawyers, regardless of income levels, because the former has more education.

    However, Marx's classes are gone. The class of the inherited wealthy is VERY small in the US. A wealthy capitalist has to divide his wealth amongst children, grandchildren, and palaces in his honor -- I mean buildings at Universities, which slowly dilutes the wealth. You rarely find more than 3 generations removed from the source of wealth still living off it, and that's for VERY wealthy families.

    In terms of class, the Myspace/Facebook divide does inadvertently follow "class" in the US, not wealth. In the US, Class largely follows schooling, though wealth is correlated, it isn't direct. Studies show that the economic benefit of elite schools aren't a huge (if any) premium over that of state schools, but in terms of US class, it's night and day. If you are smart enough to get into Harvard, you'll likely do well whether you go to Harvard or state college, but in terms of cracking open upper-class American society, the right college goes a long way towards establishing your "class" hierarchy. In that regard, Myspace/Facebook clearly follows the divide in America, not causes it... and the divide in America doesn't reflect income, or wealth directly.

    That said, since pensions, in this day and age, are more common for government employees, and 401(k)s are popular with the middle class, perhaps the tax code is forcing wealth to follow the class structure, but anyone can own capital in America, and the guy making 50k that lives below his means will acquire far more wealth than the business owner making 250k-500k that is leveraged to the hilt.
  • Class divide (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rechelon (719515) on Monday June 25, 2007 @05:14PM (#19640995) Homepage
    I'm an extremely poor urban white kid now finishing a physics degree on a full scholarship at a rather elite liberal arts college. I use both Facebook and Myspace. Facebook to talk to everyone I've met since leaving my high school, and Myspace to talk to everyone I went to high school with. It's amazing how true it is. There really is NO overlap. Almost everyone I see on Facebook has a crowded list of colleges they have friends at and a pile of high school friends keeping up with them on their wall. I have next to none since, after all, hardly anyone I knew in high school was rich enough to attend a college. Granted, Myspace makes my eyes bleed and my hands cathartically twitch out better code, but Facebook is very, very, very good at making class and social hierarchies explicit.

    Every time dem newfangled social networking sites are brought up I can't help thinking that ye ol' geocities and some sort of universal standardized social networking framework will be the ultimate solution. Add or remove modules. Throw some wiki elements in... Personally on general principle I'd feel a lot more secure if I was hosting my own profile rather than some corporate farm.
  • Re:Care2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday June 25, 2007 @07:29PM (#19642935) Homepage
    Class difference is not necessarily class warfare. Class is a reality (at least, as much of one as any other social phenomenon.)

    Some people seem to panic when class-based analysis is undertaken of a phenomenon in which they are involved - they assume that there's some judgment or discrimination being made, as if observing that the incoming class of Harvard has a distinctly different background than an incoming class at a community college, or that a NASCAR fan is different from an experimental theater enthusiast in ways that extend beyond mere preferences. It makes people uncomfortable in a way that even talk of race and gender does not.

    Class is not money, nor is it education, though money and education can predict class. There's a crude formula that helps: the working class thinks class is about money; the bourgeois (nowadays, probably better to say "middle- to upper middle classes") think it is about education, and that the aristocracy (or, where not applicable, old money: at least 3 generations of not having to work, of being able to "live off of capital" in multiple senses of the phrase) think it is about taste and habits. And the thing is, all of them are right: money will vouchsafe the education, and the education is a prerequisite - though by no means adequate - for cementing the social habits and practices by which the "gentry" recognize each other.

    But that's a very crude and general approach - more interesting to me are class fractions, the differences between, say, technical professional classes (practically white-collar working class, like IT) and, say, the class of people who attend B-schools (middle to upper-middle class, and aspiring to be in a situation where their kids might not have to work, except as a "character building" exercise.)

    While the empirical data is dated, I highly recommend Pierre Bourdieu's "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste" for an illustration of how tastes and preferences map rather nicely onto co-factors such as educational status of parents, distance from metropoles, income, etc.
  • Re:Nothing new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SonicSpike (242293) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @12:38AM (#19659233) Homepage Journal
    The lower and middle classes have indeed seen much of the gain from our economic boost. If one is in the upper class, technology doesn't change one's life very much. However now every poor person has a cell phone and probably a TV, and possibly a car. 100 years ago, that of course wasn't the case. So in that regard all of society has benefited by a better economy and more advanced technology.

    And social mobility is restricted in the US by a single factor: tax (specifically the income tax). The income tax discourages growing one's income and tends to curb upward class mobility. On the poor to middle class, welfare is what curbs the poor from moving to the middle class.

    Even though much of the money in this country (US) is held by "the top 1%" please realize that over 80% of current millionares are first-generation millionares. There is a FASCINATING book on the subject which expands on this fact by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko entitled "The Millionaire Next Door" You can get it on Amazon or at your local library. http://books.google.com/books?id=p8RMAQAACAAJ&dq=t he+millionaire+next+door+stanley [google.com]

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