Facebook And Cultural Hegemony

One of the interweb’s most famous academics, Danah Boyd, weighs in on class divisions found in social networking preferences among teens.

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
MySpace is still home for 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. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.
Marketers have already figured this out – they know who to market to where. Policy creators have figured this out – they know how to control different populations based on where they are networking. Have social workers figured it out? Or educators? What does it mean that our culture of fear has further divided a generation? What does it mean that, in a society where we can’t talk about class, we can see it play out online?

Well this certainly explains why I’ve resisted joining Facebook, although I didn’t know it until now. While I was raised in the quaint village of Hegemony, I departed for Freakdom as soon as I was able.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Kinda sounds like Sneetches to me David.
    As in pretty soon Facebook’ going to have all the “other kids” and the preppies will move on to some new SN site or back to MySpace.
    And not to get wonky about it, but last time I checked, >>alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, queer kids>> generally went to college (Can you say “Oberlin” or “Wesleyan”) and not straight into the military.
    So I’m not sure we’re looking at a class division here in the purest sense as much as a division between the in and the out crowds.

  2. fortyver says:

    Ah, got to love class and ethnic division that does not exist except in the minds of the marketers and lame consultants that are looking for the quick buck and duck. Social networking sites are pretty over, don’t you think? Well, maybe on to whatever new site has more money dumped into it. What about Friendster?

  3. In my estimation, social networks are far from over. As long as there’s an interweb, people will do what people do—interact with like-minded sorts.
    As for the popularity question and the idea that there’s an A team and B team, I suppose it’s true, for humans also love to self-organize, like wolves.
    But I don’t think about it in these terms very often. Instead I’m thinking about how social nets deepen the art of personal storytelling (or branding, as the case may be). We all have stories to tell and now there’s a frequently visited commons where these stories can be shared.