Popularity of Facebook and MySpace changes, but SES differences in use persist

Two years ago, as part of a collection of articles researching social network site uses, I published a piece (blog post here) about the different predictors of Facebook and MySpace use among a diverse group of first-year college students. Some of the reactions to that paper suggested that the the differences by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status identified in the data were only temporary and would soon change.

Change in Facebook and MySpace use by race/ethnicity among a group of college students, 2007-2009I now have some new data to consider possible changes over the past two years. I haven’t written this up in any formal way yet (nor do I have more elaborate statistical analyses to share right now), but I do have some figures suggesting that the differences I identified two years ago persist today.

Note that this is a new cohort of first-year students (i.e., not the same students resurveyed two years later) at the same universitywhere I conducted the study in 2007. (See details about the data collection and sample descriptives at the end of this post.)

Change in Facebook and MySpace use by parental education among a group of college students, 2007-2009There are two main findings here. (Click on the images for larger versions or see the table below.) First, there is a general increase in use of Facebook and a general decline in use of MySpace across the board. In 2007, 79% of the study participants were using Facebook while in 2009, 87% of the sample reports doing so. In contrast, while in 2007, 55% of the group reported using MySpace, in 2009, only 36% do so.

Second, we continue to see ethnic and racial differences as well as different usage by parental education (a proxy for socioeconomic status). Students of Hispanic origin are more likely to use MySpace than others and less likely to use Facebook than others. Asian American students are the least likely to be on MySpace. Regarding parental education, the relatively small number (7%) of students in the sample whose parents have less than a high school education are much more likely to be on MySpace and much less likely to be on Facebook than others. Students from families where at least one parent has a college degree are much less likely to be MySpace users than others.

In my 2007 paper, I talked a bit about what may be going on here, but getting deep into that is difficult through data of this sort. danah boyd does much more in-depth work in this realm – granted, on high school students not college students – and has shared reflections both two years ago and just last week on what may be going on.

I welcome suggestions on how to represent this information better (from the table below) on figures as I’m not too happy with my current attempts.

Change in Facebook and MySpace use among a group of college students, 2007-2009

Descriptive statistics about the two samples are below. In both years, we collected data among students enrolled in the one required course at the University of Illinois, Chicago: the First-Year Writing Program. We administered a paper-pencil survey so as not to bias against those who spend less time online or those who are less comfortable with filling out surveys on the Web. The response rate in 2007 was 82%, in 2009 it was 80.5%. The sample here includes first-year students ages 18-24 who took the survey.

Descriptive statistics about UIC '07 and '09 samples

Many thanks go to the fabulous research assistants in the Web Use Project group who were instrumental in the collection of all these data.

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