Category Archives: military

Social networks and the military’s hidden classism

I just finished reading a great article on a supposed class difference between MySpace and Facebook users. There is nothing you shouldn’t be able to spot between the lines but a good read nonetheless.

One thing I found interesting is her conservative take on the U.S. military’s ban of MySpace.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because there’s a division, even in the military. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban 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 with their MySpace usage.

MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. 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 statistically significant shift has occurred but it was one of those things that just made me think. And then the ban happened. I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?

She neglects to inform readers that in the same stroke a ban was placed on YouTube. The Department of Defense says that strained infrastructure meant that the most bandwidth-intensive sites needed to be blacklisted, which does not suggest the threat to negative perceptions. Many soldiers seem to agree that military bandwidth is stretched but wish that the change did not affect their preferred ability to communicate with family and friends.

If you are really interested.