Social (Media) Stratification

A recent study by Nielsen (referenced in this CNN article) indicates that social networking sites may magnify social and economic  stratification.  The study suggests that less affluent people tend to be users of MySpace, more affluent users are on Facebook, and the most affluent are on LinkedIn and Twitter – although researchers did notice significant overlap – where users are registered on multiple networks – particularly between Facebook and LinkedIn.  While MySpace captured an early lead in the social networking race, more educated and affluent users jumped ship and headed to Facebook.  Consider this sobering statistic – Percentage of users with a six-figure salary:

16% MySpace | 23% Facebook | 38% LinkedIn

Why the disparity – particularly between MySpace and Facebook?

A lot of it has to do with the disparate beginnings of MySpace and Facebook, said Adam Ostrow, editor-in-chief of Mashable, a blog about social media. Facebook originated at Harvard University and was limited at first to students at approved colleges before opening itself to the public in September 2006.

MySpace, on the other hand, had a “come one, come all” policy and made a mad dash towards monetization, Ostrow said. “They used a lot of banner ads without regard to the quality, and it really diminished the value [of the site] for the more tech-savvy demographic.”

These are factors for the investigative researcher to take into consideration when querying social networking sites.

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