Thursday, July 15, 2010

Facebook, Race, Class

So I've been watching a lot of Jay Smooth's old video blogs over at, and he talks a lot about "the little hater": that counterproductive little (or big) voice in the creative person's head who undermines every creative endeavor, who tells you you're not good enough, that it's already been done, that enumerates all the eight million reasons you shouldn't bother sitting down and doing the work. It's been entertaining, but I've still not been doing the work.

I can't say that this necessarily is doing the work, either; my own little hater is yammering as we speak, telling me that I shouldn't write this, that I ought to submit it to a real magazine to see if I can't get it published as a real column so that I can in turn be a real writer.

But I have to undermine my little hater by saying a) I'm a real writer even if I never get a single word I've written published for the rest of my life; b) not everything I write necessarily has to be published in a magazine, real or otherwise; c) it's better for me to have something written and (kind of) finished in my blog than not to write anything and have nothing anywhere.

That said, let's talk about this gawker article.

It talks about "white flight" from MySpace - claiming that white people were leaving MySpace in droves and moving over to facebook because MySpace was "too ghetto" - had too many blacks and Latinos on it.

You know, I was not aware of that.

I never really "left" MySpace, it's true - so maybe I'm reinforcing the stereotype that Latinos love the MySpace. But the reality of the situation is that I've just been too lazy to delete the account. Every time I've tried to, it's seemed like an involved process, like getting the last of my stuff from an ex I'm still friendly with. Like, oh, all those old photo albums and notebooks (blog posts) are still over there, do I REALLY want to have to cart them all over to my new place/put them in storage? Meh! You can keep holding that for me. Thanks, MySpace.

Also, I didn't make a "move" - there was a long period of overlap between my "mostly MySpace" usage and my "mostly facebook" usage (which has now become "some facebook, some twitter" usage).

But part of the reason I ultimately abandoned MySpace was because there were so many damn bells and whistles - and this is the reason that most of the people I know abandoned it as well. Too many ads, too many noises, "too much blinking shit," as a friend of mine used to say. Page customization held a lot of appeal for me and presumably a lot of other MySpace users at one point, but it got kind of old after a while. And once you could compare it to facebook's streamlined, uniform interface, much higher rate of speed, more nuanced privacy controls, and much less obtrusive ads, it just seemed like a natural progression.

It's a fact that many blacks and Latinos were late on the facebook boat, and that this can undoubtedly be attributed to the fact that facebook was restricted to college students for a long time. It's unfortunate but true that blacks and Latinos are still underrepresented in higher education in most parts of the country, and so were on facebook as well. However, I think white people leaving MySpace in favor of facebook had less to do with, as the author of the Gawker article proposes, perceptions of MySpace as a "digital ghetto" and far more to do with the fact that for one, many or most of their friends were moving to facebook, and two, facebook is a better product for many people's social networking needs.

I understand that the author of the Gawker article was trying to bring to light some kind of underhanded, or at least largely unaddressed, sort of racism, but in the end, the article just sounded like a big, racist mess itself. I'm not disputing the numbers, but the implication that blacks and Latinos created a ghetto element on MySpace that white people wanted to escape is seriously problematic. Further, I really don't think it's accurate. There are plenty of affluent, educated blacks and Latinos on facebook and off (and what about Twitter, the great class equalizer?). Maybe there are some white people who moved over to facebook because MySpace was "too ghetto," - in fact, there probably are. But I think the majority of people who made that move did so for the same reason most people seem to do anything - because all their friends were doing it.

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