Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 7/13/2007 6:45:09 AM ET 2007-07-13T10:45:09

The kids are ditching MySpace for Facebook. According to the latest numbers from comScore Media Metrix, U.S. MySpace visitors under 18 dropped 30 percent over the past year, while Facebook's nearly tripled.

Why the exodus?

Is it simply the fickle nature of teens? Is it because Facebook, with its ties to real-world school affiliations, seems safer? Or could it be that average American teenagers don’t want to be labeled like this:

Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. (sic)

That’s how UC Berkeley researcher danah boyd (lowercase is how she legally spells it) described teen MySpace users in her “blog essay” Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace, which exploded all over the Internet last month. She also wrote that “the goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other 'good' kids are now going to Facebook.”

Many a blog fly had a real problem with the way boyd addressed race and class, not to mention her arguably shaky methodology and grammar. (Then again, when doesn't a blog fly all-cap insult anything high on the Digg/ del.icio.us/ Slashdot charts?)

As happens on the InterWeb, things spun horribly out of control. The BBC reported boyd’s essay as a “study,” implying sciencey goodness despite boyd’s numerous caveats indicating other wise.

The Uber Blog Geeks launched into a full-on blog war (as Uber Blog Geeks are wont to do) shooting invectives from their various sides and opinions.

“I'm still floored by the responses,” boyd wrote in a follow-up blog, and her surprise is perhaps the most controversial statement she’s made so far. As a PhD candidate and social network researcher, boyd should have figured out by now how the Internet works. It works like this:

On the Internet, everything you post is your final draft. Like boyd’s essay, it doesn’t matter how many caveats you place in italics, stating stuff like, “I wish I could just put numbers in front of it all and be done with it, but instead, I'm going to face the stickiness and see if I can get my thoughts across.Upload your ideas into cyberspace, and you might as well buy that essay an engagement ring – it’s yours forever. Hmmmm…maybe kids are finally figuring out that important truth and that’s why they’re emigrating from MySpace to Facebook. MySpace is way ugly and unorganized. Even politicians can’t get it right. Who wants that albatross?

On the Internet, everything is out of context. Nobody reads the Internet for comprehension. Whatever you post, people will decide what it says before they read it. And even if they do read it, they’ll only take away what they want to take away. It’s not they’re fault. They’re at work, where they’re supposed to be working, not surfing the Web. They only have so much time to find something appropriate to which they can add their all-cap insult. Speaking of comment sections, that’s another reason kids are leaving MySpace. “THNX 4 THE AD!!!” has grown hollow and meaningless. Also, nobody wants to hear your stupid band.

Geeks love to blog fight. Before danah boyd’s essay, it was Twitter. Or Digg. Or Google taking over the universe. Though it’s actually very impressive that boyd’s essay took focus off Steve Jobs and the iPhone, if only for a nanosecond.

Accelerating name recognition is an Internet specialty. Raise your hand if you heard of danah boyd one month ago. Then you too are a geek and/or blog fly.

Journalists are lazy. At least some of them, hence the BBC’s overblown reference to boyd’s essay. Meanwhile, according to this comScore press release I’m looking at, half the users on MySpace are 35 or older. Wow, that sure explains a lot. What teen wants to hang out online with the parents?

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