FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why MySpace Appeals to Teens

According to a presentation by media researcher danah boyd, young people are attracted to MySpace because they perceive it as a literal place where they can relax with their peers and do things they can't do physically.

MySpace neatly mirrors the way teens perceive the world, allowing them to meet others easily, interact with their "real time" friends, and share their feelings and preferences.

For most teens, it is simply a part of everyday life - they are there because their friends are there and they are there to hang out with those friends. Of course, its ubiquitousness does not mean that everyone thinks that it is cool. Many teens complain that the site is lame, noting that they have better things to do. Yet, even those teens have an account which they check regularly because it's the only way to keep up with the Jones's.

Additionally, teens turns to the online world because their physical space is increasingly "structured space," where their behavior is regulated. Few physical places exist where teens can do as they please without adult supervision. "Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents." Online, though, no such structure exists... and it's this lack of structure that causes the problems associated with MySpace, such as the presence of adult predators.

"What we're seeing right now," boyd writes, "is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture."

RELATED: For parents worried about or simply confused by MySpace, Wired offers a Q&A mini-tutorial. Another Wired article sorts out the real, perceived and overhyped dangers of MySpace.

Source: Many-to-Many