Facebook users are more likely to be middle-class, come from wealthier homes and have a college education than fans of MySpace.

A six-month study of American teenagers using social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace revealed that there's a clear class divide between users of the two rival sites.

Those using Facebook are more likely to come from wealthier homes and have attended college. MySpace users, on the other hand, tend to have gone into jobs after finishing school rather than higher education.

PhD student Danah Boyd from the School of Information Sciences at the University of California in Berkeley interviewed many teenage users of social networking websites as part of a research project. Boyd said that the class system in the US was more linked to social life and how people define themselves, rather than income.

"Social networks are strongly connected to geography, race, and religion; these are also huge factors in lifestyle divisions and thus 'class'," Boyd wrote in her study ' Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life '.

Facebook vs MySpace

Boyd found that Facebook users tend to be white. They seem to come from families keen for their children to get the most out of school and go on to college. "They are in honours classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after-school activities."

The parents of the average MySpace teenager tended not to have been to college, she said. MySpace also has a bigger proportion of teens from immigrant, Latino and Hispanic families. "MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracised at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers," Boyd said.

"This division is just another way in which technology is mirroring societal values."

Boyd concluded that social networking websites are helping teenagers to cope with modern day stress. "Teens are using social network sites to build a community and connect with their peers," she said. "And through it, they are showcasing all of the good, bad, and ugly of today's teen life."