Who Uses MySpace and Facebook?

Facebook MySpace Fight Graphic Eszter Hargittai has done an in-depth study of the social media usage of college students and finds distinct demographic differences between those who use Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that Facebook is easily the market leader overall but not among those from down-market demographics.

Research has shown that people use Facebook especially to keep in touch with their existing networks rather than to meet new people. This makes sense since the site — another structural feature — organizes people and one’s connections according to one’s existing offline networks. Again, especially in the beginning, what mattered most was a user’s school affiliation. If your friends who graduated from high school a year or two ago didn’t go to college then they probably didn’t join Facebook so if you want to keep in touch with them, that’s not the network where you’ll be able to do it best.

If people’s online networks mirror their offline networks and constraints placed on people in their everyday lives are reflected in their online interactions then that means that there is a limit — for some more than others — to what different people can get out of their online activities and interactions.

As a Facebook user well outside the target demo, I use the network differently: as a means of extending relationships that are mostly online. My real-space friends who are also “Facebook friends” tend not to make much use of the site.

As I’ve noted previously, the addition of various widgets that have made Facebook more MySpace-like has made it less useful at meeting my needs. My interest in who’s challenged whom to a zombie fight is, to say the least, rather limited. Indeed, I now direct all Facebook messages to a separate folder in Gmail and only check in a couple times a week.

Image source: Sam Huleatt

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.