Everyone treats MySpace like a ghost town in spite of the fact it is still the second biggest social network next to Facebook. No, it doesn’t enjoy the popularity it once did, but it sure isn’t exactly dead either. In the light of the user migration from the former to the latter, once has to wonder what caused it, and one researcher thinks it may be what has driven Caucasians out of cities to the suburbs, the urban problem known as “White Flight”.
When Caucasians start leaving city urban centers in droves in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the act became known as White Flight as it appeared they were doing so to get away from minorities and growing crime rates. This was pretty well documented, and it hasn’t come up in some years because most people have moved by now.
Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd has a draft paper (PDF link) that has been making the rounds suggesting that teens left MySpace for Facebook due to the former turning into a “digital ghetto”. The passage getting the most attention is:
We were talking about the social media practices of her classmates when I asked her why most of her friends were moving from MySpace to Facebook. Kat grew noticeably uncomfortable. She began simply, noting that “MySpace is just old now and it’s boring.” But then she paused, looked down at the table, and continued.
“It’s not really racist, but I guess you could say that. I’m not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever.”
The 44-page paper says the issue has to do with the site being taken over by lovers of hip-hop music and so on, implying a more “ghetto” like mentality than Facebook’s more collegiate roots.
While I still maintain a MySpace profile, I rarely, if ever, visit it simply because I lost interest in the site. My original migration to Facebook came about due the natural progression of more and more people to the site, but it suited my needs better. No more glittery graphics, no more auto-playing music and no hideously ugly profile pages where you couldn’t read the text. The overall user interface was cleaner and easier to use, and it just felt more put together.
I know that many people in my age group changed services not due to “White Flight”, but instead it was “Teen Flight”. We wanted to get away from the droves of squealing teenagers with their bad taste in music and so on. Did the teens follow us due to White Flight? Possibly, but talking to a teen here or there is no true barometer of the group as a whole.
The reason I have issues with this is that teens left social networks across the board to join Facebook. Why did they leave Bebo? Orkut? Both those examples were hugely popular countries other than the United States, so why did their users also flee to Facebook? I highly doubt it was the same purported reason.
It could just always be teens are fickle creatures and they simply changed, and I bet you anything some day they will leave Facebook for something shinier and newer.
What say you? Why do you think people left MySpace?