MySpace 101: how teenagers use the popular social networking website

February 24th, 2006 Karine Joly 2 Comments

A lot has been written lately about MySpace in newspapers all over the country (well the US, I mean) but also the world.

Most of the time, journalists paint a very dark picture of the social networking website: a place that sexual predators, high school bullies and other dangerous kinds have made theirs.

While our college crowd are more represented on thefacebook.com, THE social networking website for any owner of an edu email address, there’s a big chance that most of our prospective students have their own pages on myspace.com. That’s why it’s so important to learn a bit more about this popular website.

Danah Boyd, PhD student at the School of Information (SIMS) at the University of California, Berkeley and a prolific blogger, has recently given a presentation about the famous social networking website for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis, Missouri: “Identity Production in a Networked Culture”


In the notes she prepared for her talk, Boyd offers a couple of interesting facts about MySpace.

“Over 50 million accounts have been created and the majority of participants are what would be labeled youth – ages 14-24. MySpace has more pageviews per day than any site on the web except Yahoo! (yes, more than Google or MSN).”

“At the core are profiles that are connected by links to friends on the system. Profiles are personalized to express an individual’s interests and tastes, thoughts of the day and values. Music, photos and video help users make their profile more appealing.”

The friend network allows people to link to their friends and people can traverse the network through these profiles. An individual’s “Top 8″ friends are displayed on the front page of their profile; all of the rest appear on a separate page. Bands, movie stars, and other media creators have profiles within the system and fans can friend them as well. People can comment on each others’ profiles or photos and these are typically displayed publicly.
[…] Once on MySpace, most time is spent modifying one’s own profile, uploading photos, sending messages, checking out friends’ profiles and commenting on them. Checking messages and getting comments is what brings people back to MySpace every day.”


Boyd also explains why this website is so popular among teenagers:

“For many teens, hanging out has moved online. Teens chat on IM for hours, mostly keeping each other company and sharing entertaining cultural tidbits from the web and thoughts of the day. The same is true on MySpace, only in a much more public way. MySpace is both the location of hanging out and the cultural glue itself.”

“By going virtual, digital technologies allow youth to (re)create private and public youth space while physically in controlled spaces. IM serves as a private space while MySpace provide a public component. Online, youth can build the environments that support youth socialization.”

“Without impetus, teens rarely choose to go private on MySpace and certainly not for fear of predators or future employers. They want to be visible to other teens, not just the people they they’ve friended. They would just prefer the adults go away. All adults. Parents, teachers, creepy men.”

This last point probably means that college admissions people won’t probably succeed in marketing their institution on this space unless they rely on student ambassadors as I hinted in a previous post about these social networking websites.