While reading White Flight in Networked Publics by Danah Boyd, the thing that stuck out the most was the mention of the “freedom” MySpace allowed its users by allowing them to use coding to personalize their profiles. This is not to say that the argument of the article went unnoticed – racial and socio-economical hierarchies are very real in the social network realm. However, I couldn’t help but continuously go back to those little passages where she mentioned the “freedom” of coding a MySpace profile and the simplicity of a Facebook profile (Facebook does not allow for profile layout editing). One of the teenagers interviewed says: “Facebook is easier than MySpace but MySpace is more complex…You can add music, make backgrounds and layouts, but Facebook is just plain white and that’s it”. Which leads me to think…did racial hierarchies drive us away from a space where teens and young adults alike could’ve learned to code in such a way that was fun yet would give them a life skill? If such is the case then there goes another item to add to the long list of reasons why racial ethnic and socio-economic hierarchies continue to hold us back. One can only imagine what could’ve become of so many of those preteen, teen and young adults who loved the “freedom” they had on Myspace to mindless join the then shiny and new but boring Facebook.
Down to the nitty gritty, as per the teens interviewed by Boyd, Facebook has a clean aesthetic and MySpace was denounced as gaudy or tacky. Here is where the socio-economical hierarchy of it all really gets me: the teens interviewed recognized that Facebook was monochrome, that MySpace allowed them to have individuality but because Facebook was new and exclusive – it then became the place to be. As one teen put it
“these tools gave MySpacers the freedom to annoy as much as they pleased. Facebook was nice because…everyone’s page looked pretty much the same, but you could still look at pictures of each other”
Excuse me…What?! How do we equate individuality with annoyance? How is a site that you can adjust to your liking – by learning coding along the way – be less cool than one where you can’t customize at all?
I’m at a loss for words for many reasons.
- I strayed away from what the article was really about.
- I once was a teenager who jumped ship to Facebook also. (though not without regrets of not having learned more coding).
- I cannot believe how the racial and economic systems in our society attempt to divide us in such subtle ways such as that of which social networks we belong to.
This is truly a fascinating article, for reasons way beyond what caught my attention, and we should definitely continue to be aware of our society’s set up hierarchies. I just couldn’t help but be bothered by how identities given to us by society have so much influence in the way we live. Where so many of us could’ve learned such a useful skill like coding, we deemed it “the other” thus making it a societal reject. While it may seem crazy to some, MySpace could’ve been revolutionary, it could’ve been a space where young people socialized with peers and had their virtual presence be as much of their authentic selves as possible, while teaching them a valuable skill. Alas, who am I to say what could’ve or should’ve been? I switched right along with everyone else.
** Side note: Danah Boyd briefly mentioned my preferred social networks as a teen – Xanga and MiGente**