So while I was busy getting my affairs in order to close on my first home (yes, I am now officially a home owner!), I missed the big buzz around the danah boyd (all lowercase) blog essay about the social divisions inherent between MySpace and Facebook. For those who haven’t read the essay, she is basically trying to make an argument that class divisions manifest themselves in where people choose to associate online.
Luckily, I got an e-mail tip (that I finally got around to reading yesterday) from a great PR blogger from our neighbor to the north which pointed me to the essay and its comments about the military’s presence on social networking Web sites.
Her comments about the military — and the class divisions between officers and enlisted — are restricted to two paragraphs. And those who know me know I hate to play the critic. But when it comes to her ill-informed analysis of the military, there is much to be critical of.
Lets take this apart, shall we?
A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook.
The military banned 12 sites at the time — including MySpace and YouTube. I have written about this before, and I can can tell you for certain that the ban had nothing to do with class. The DOD claimed that the sites were taking up too much bandwidth, though my opinion is that some general had heard about MySpace and was scared that a Soldier would misuse it, so it was banned. Either way, not a class issue.
This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS [social networking service] of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities.
I disagree with the premise. I did a quick search of the “United States Army” Network on Facebook, which has over 50,000 members. From the sample I examined (about 50), I found that more than half were enlisted, not officers.
Furthermore, I find the assumption that 18-year-old Soldiers are “poorer” and “less educated” insulting. This type of thinking is a symptom of the civil-military divide in our country — where people have uninformed assumptions about what it means to be a Soldier. People don’t enter the Army simply because “they can’t get into college” or “they aren’t smart” or “they don’t have other options.”
The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook.
Here is where we get to the point. The link between Facebook and college. Up until recently, Facebook was only open to people with a .edu e-mail address. This isn’t the case anymore. So maybe Facebook once was an officer’s club (since officers needed to have a bachelor’s degree). But that is not the case any more.
Furthermore, there is a growing number of enlisted soldiers who are entering the service with an undergraduate degree.
As for a final note on boyd’s essay, she had one thought that I am still stewing on:
When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a significant shift has occurred but it was one of those observations that just made me think. And then the ban happened.
What are your thoughts on this shift?