Age differences in online social networking – A study of user profiles and the social capital divide among teenagers and older users in MySpace
The aim of this research was to investigate age differences and similarities in the use of the social networking website MySpace, to explore potential differences in social capital among older people (users over 60 years of age) compared to teenagers (users between 13 and 19 years of age). We used locally developed web crawlers to collect data from MySpace's user profile pages, and to quantify any differences that exist in the networks of friends of older people and teenagers. Content analysis was applied to investigate differences in social activities between the two age groups on MySpace, and the way they represent themselves on their profile pages. Our findings show a social capital divide: teenagers have larger networks of friends compared to older users of MySpace. On the other hand, we found that the majority of teenage users' friends are in their own age range (age+/-2 years), whilst older people's networks of friends tend to have a more diverse age distribution. In addition, our results show that teenagers tend to make more use of different media (e.g. video, music) within MySpace and use more self-references and negative emotions when describing themselves on their profile compared to older people.