Most Kids Don't Visit MySpace for the Blogs
Posted on February 22, 2006Danah Boyd has written an interesting article about why kids are using the MySpace service. Boyd says MySpace is used most by teens and young adults aged 14-24. The number of member accounts on MySpace is approaching 58 million and there are high schools that have banned it and parents that are very concerned about it. Boyd says MySpace has become the youth space -- "a place to gather and see and be seen by peers."
Many teens access MySpace at least once a day or whenever computer access is possible. Teens that have a computer at home keep MySpace opened while they are doing homework or talking on instant messenger. In schools where it is not banned or blocked, teens check MySpace during passing period, lunch, study hall and before/after school. This is particularly important for teens who don't have computer access at home. For most teens, it is simply a part of everyday life - they are there because their friends are there and they are there to hang out with those friends.Boyd says teens are flocking to MySpace despite the risks involved because they need the social contacts that MySpace provides.
Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge. Restricting youth to controlled spaces typically results in rebellion and the destruction of trust. Of course, for a parent, letting go and allowing youth to navigate risks is terrifying. Unfortunately, it's necessary for youth to mature.Most of the MySpace users are visiting to read comments, add new friends, look at photos, meet new people and leave comments on their friends' profiles. If you browse the profiles on MySpace you can see that many of the members have never posted anything in the blog section, which is located in the top right corner of MySpace accounts. If you do manage to find a MySpace member that is blogging most have just one or two entries -- they are typically nothing like the active blogs found in the blogosphere. Most MySpace members use MySpace for the photos, profiles and friend connections. The "friends comments" section also tends to be extremely active.
What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.
Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.
On MySpace, comments provide a channel for feedback and not surprisingly, teens relish comments. Of course, getting a comment is not such a haphazard affair. Friends are _expected_ to comment as a sign of their affection. Furthermore, a comment to a friend's profile or photo is intended to be reciprocated. It is also not uncommon to hear teens request comments from each other in other social settings or on the bulletin boards. In MySpace, comments are a form of cultural currency.MySpace is being used more as an instant messenger service or communication tool than as a blogging tool. To say that MySpace contains anywhere near 57 million blogs would be misleading. It would be interesting to know just how many MySpace accounts have at least one blog post and how many have ten or more posts.