My last blog post examined current Facebook usage among high school students and found that Facebook penetration is noticeably higher for private high schools and highly rated public schools. The analysis was motivated by Danah Boyd’s personal observation that Facebook and MySpace usage reflects a social/economic/aesthetic class difference in America. Today I will look at some MySpace data to see if it provides further evidence to her observation.
For the Facebook analysis, I was able to get the percentage of students at each high school with Facebook profiles. Getting the same data for MySpace would be ideal. Unfortunately, such information in MySpace is extremely unreliable. As a substitute, I’ve defined a metric called “MySpace intensity” for each high school. It’s the total number of MySpace profiles that claim a certain high school divided by the current population of that school. The intensity can be (and often is) higher than one since both current students and alumni are included. For those interested, I’ll give more details on the data collection at the end of this post.
As in my Facebook analysis, I examined a number of public high schools in San Francisco and noted their “GreatSchools Rating” from GreatSchools.net (which is also where I found the population data for the high schools).
|School||MySpace intensity||GreatSchools Rating|
|School of the Arts||0.64||7|
Here the trend is clearly the opposite of Facebook. MySpace intensity is higher for the lowly-rated schools. The social networking site is just not as popular in the “better” schools. Independence High School may seem like an anomaly, but remember that Independence did not even have a Facebook network at all. The students there may just be not terribly networked online.
To put the Facebook and MySpace analysis together, I’ve defined a “Facebook/MySpace index” (F/M index). For each high school, its F/M index is the number of current students with Facebook profiles divided by the number of current and past students with MySpace profiles. It’s equivalent to the Facebook penetration rate divided by MySpace intensity. The result:
|School||F/M index||GreatSchools Rating|
|School of the Arts||0.88||7|
The table above clearly shows that school quality is indicative of its students’ taste preference for Facebook versus MySpace. The individual analysis of Facebook usage and MySpace usage shows that polarization goes both ways; neither Facebook nor MySpace is universally liked.
To get a sense of whether socio-economic class is a factor, I’ve gotten the measurements for some of the private high schools in San Francisco. (I’ve repeated the Facebook penetration rate here for comparison.)
|School||Facebook penetration rate||MySpace intensity||F/M index|
A surprising result here is that many private high school students are quite active in MySpace as well, more so than students from highly rated public high schools. However, they’re even more active on Facebook, thus their F/M index is in the same range as the good public high schools. My personal knowledge would also say to not lump the four private high school together completely. While Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius are very much the classic preppy private schools, Riordan tends to attract students who would otherwise be assigned to poor public schools (e.g. Mission High) and their families essentially have to pay to get a decent education. Mercy is an all-girl school, and one can argue that MySpace has more of an appeal to teenage girls.
And advertisers may know this class difference between Facebook and MySpace already. On my Facebook page today, the ad I see is for Embassy Suites Hotel. When I go to MySpace, the first ad I see is for the new TV series GossipGirl, and yesterday the first ad I saw was for Trojan condoms…
To find the number of MySpace profiles for a high school, I use the MySpace classmate finder. Unlike on Facebook, I couldn’t get a list of high schools in San Francisco. Instead, I have to specify the high school’s name
MySpace does seem to have an internal database of high schools in the U.S., just like in Facebook. It’s just not as well exposed. One can see from the search results that it in fact knows International Studies Academy is in San Francisco.
Clicking on that link shows the search results for all MySpace profiles associated with International Studies Academy. The number of results returned is the information I use to calculate a high school’s MySpace intensity. Although there’s a “Refine Your School Search” function that supposedly allow you to narrow down the results, it works very poorly. For example, if I filter to specific graduation or attendance years, a random sample of the search results shows that those users in fact had graduated/attended the school in very different years. After several tries, I decided the search refinement feature simply doesn’t work and to not use it.