Social networking websites such Facebook and MySpace are split along class, religious and race lines and their growth is fuelling a socio-economic divide, according to a report by the University of California, Berkeley.
According to the six-month study, News Corporation-owned MySpace attracts a higher proportion of users from Latin American, Hispanic and Asian backgrounds, whereas users of Facebook, which was set up to reunite college and university students, appeals to users from primarily white, middle-class backgrounds whose parents went to higher education institutions.
The study, which was compiled by Danah Boyd, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, found that Facebook users "tend to come from families who emphasise education and going to college", whereas MySpace is "still home for Latino and Hispanic teens" and other minority or socially ostracised groups.
Boyd said the socio-economic divide in social networking websites was underlined last month when the US military banned personnel from using MySpace, but allowed them to continue using Facebook.
According to Boyd, "soldiers are on MySpace, officers are on Facebook", suggesting there was a hierarchical reason for the US military's banning MySpace and not Facebook.
Boyd said: "The military appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. I can't help but wonder if the reason for this goes beyond the purported concerns that those in the military are leaking information or spending too much time online or soaking up too much bandwidth [using MySpace]."
The report has already provoked intense debate, with teen social media website Shiny Shiny offering its own interpretation of the results by claiming that "MySpace kids are too busy freebasing crack and catching STDs to worry about things like prom and college".
Meanwhile, more than half of social networking website users are "chronically unfaithful" and migrate to rival sites, according to a report issued by Parks Associates.
The industry and consumer research company said that user migration to rival sites posed a problem for the owner's business models and long term benefits, with 40% of MySpace users having an account on Friendster or Facebook too.
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