Social network: Social status?
UNLV students weigh in on findings of Internet-oriented study
You may have heard of tweeting or updating your “status” on your favorite social networking site, but perhaps there’s even more to status and social networking than meets the eye.
Social networking is a quickly-growing use for the World Wide Web, drawing the attention of Internet surfers and researchers alike. According to Nielsen Associate Vice President Wils Corrigan, half the U.S. population visited a social networking site in the last year, a number that continues to grow each quarter.
A study released by Nielsen Claritas in late September finds that factors like income and education may indicate with which online community one is more likely to participate.
According to the research firm, Facebook users have a “largely upscale profile,” and the top third of their demographic segments, in terms of income, are 25 percent more likely to use Facebook than the lower third.
On the other end, MySpace, a popular competitor to Facebook, is largely home to the bottom third of segments in terms of income – this demographic is 37 percent more likely to use MySpace than other social networking sites.
Other factors – education, for example – are correlated with social network choice, according to the study.
Facebook started off as a college-geared site before opening to the public in 2006, whereas MySpace began as a public site in 2003.
According to Samantha Anderson, a UNLV student who uses both sites, the results are somewhat unsurprising.
“I can see where the study might come in because [Facebook] was created for college students, which does point to a certain degree of education and such,” she said.
Anderson started a MySpace profile in high school and a signed up for Facebook in college. Since, then she has left MySpace entirely.
“Most of my friends are on [Facebook],” she said.
Nielsen’s study makes one piece of seemingly common wisdom certain – it claims that the main motivating factor behind participating in social networking is which venue one’s friends use.
“I can see where the study [works],” Anderson said, “because Facebook was created for college students, which does point to a certain degree of education.”
For Emma Guerrero, a student whose social networking experience mirrors Anderson’s, there are some clear differences between the two as far as personal networks are concerned. Guerrero is convinced that the study’s findings reflect her own experience.
“In some ways, it’s true. I started my MySpace [profile] in high school,” she said, adding that most of the friends she is linked with on MySpace are those she’s known since that point. “A lot of my MySpace friends never went to college.”
Like Anderson, many of Guerrero’s friends on Facebook are connections she made during her time at UNLV. However, unlike Anderson, she continues to use both networks.
The Nielsen study looked beyond dedicated social networking sites, also noting that blog platforms like Blogspot and WordPress and microblogging site Twitter are most popular in highly urbanized areas – and use of these is strongly linked to members of Facebook or LinkedIn, a site geared toward professional networking. In fact, Twitter users trend toward the most affulent demographic.
Nielsen also noted a “strong” overlap between Facebook and LinkedIn members.
One student, Richard Ochoa, sees much use of Facebook that overlaps with LinkedIn’s primary purpose.
“It seems to me that even though Facebook is no longer exclusive to the college demographic, Facebook is used by a more mature group of people… even among some professionals,” Ochoa said.
Professional uses aside, Ochoa said he has concerns with social networking promoting narcissism.
“Especially when you have guys and girls with thousands of friends and a lot of self-pictures, if you know what I mean,” Ochoa said.
Anderson voiced similar concerns, noting that she felt that self-absorption was less prevalent on Facebook.
“[Facebook is] so much more clean. It’s not so much about the hooking up and looking as sexy as possible, [as] in the pics like [you see on] MySpace,” she said.
Anderson also took issue with what she perceived as an overuse of social networking by bands, businesses and strangers.
“On MySpace, the friend requests you get are a lot of spam,” she said, adding that she finds the problem not nearly as common on Facebook.
“Facebook is mostly students and young professionals,” she said.
These concerns aside, Anderson sees value in using a social networking profile, with some restraint.
“I think social networking is a good idea,” Anderson said, “but I usually use it to keep in touch with the people I already know or met.”