Monday, 22 February 2010

ages of social network site users

Here's an interesting report on the average ages of users on social network sites. It basically confirms what I already suspected: the average age of MySpace users (31.8) is younger than the average age of Facebook users (38.4), although the divide isn't terribly enormous. What this kind of data doesn't indicate, however, is why there is a gap. This report also fails to indicate whether it's data is based solely on self-reported age. How many people used to (or still do) list their age as 99 on MySpace.. or 69, anyone? That's probably going to skew the findings considerably. I'll assume that the report is based on that data and proceed with a grain of sand.

My own findings are beginning to indicate that young people are engaging more with MySpace because it allows for a greater sense of symbolic control and experimentation with design, images, colours, embedded elements and so on. Young MySpace users often describe Facebook as 'sterile', whereas Facebook users (who are often ex-MySpace users) describe MySpace as 'juvenile'. I think there's an important tension here that deserves further attention. If younger people, who are, presumably, still developing a sense of self, gravitate towards the creative potential of MySpace, perhaps it's operating here on some level as a reflexively expressive space to experiment with or 'sandbox' different self-narratives. More meditation required. Perhaps Sherry Turkle can be revisited.

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