Gender wars: How Men and Women Differ in their social media usage
Men and women are very different creatures. As the saying goes, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. They express themselves and communicate in ways that are different from each other. Whether it’s the manner of talking, body language and gestures, or verbalization of emotions, men and women are very dissimilar.
Most studies yet don’t have any substantial claims about whether this is because of inherent biological differences or the different cultural expectations placed on men and women. The nature vs. nurture argument has no objective solution. Recreating an isolated environment for any of the two in a scientific experiment is nearly impossible.
We see similar behavior patterns by men and women in virtual spaces as well. Social networking sites host phantom worlds on the internet, where people interact with each other, make friends, share helpful information and trade secrets, celebrate each other, and sometimes even bully each other. Every imaginable aspect of human nature can be seen played out on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, etc.
We cannot separate the physical world from the social media mirror image of it no longer. The two are deeply intertwined, and hundreds of millions of men and women visit the social media town daily now. There are some major differences in how women and men navigate these online spaces, though. According to recent data, 77% of Pinterest users are women, while only 14.5% of users identify as men and the rest unspecified. Men are more likely to have a public profile on Instagram than women. These data showcase great behavioral distinctions between the gender.
There has been a need for communication ever since the beginning of human society. Technology for social interconnection and the transfer of information has changed massively over the years. It started with letters on paper, telegraphs, telephones, mobile phones, and now facetime and social media.
There is historical evidence present that suggests that this technology is often shaped around gender. In earlier days, telephones were only available at home. Since women didn’t work outside the house, it was still a prevalent belief that women talked more on the phone than men. Women had more idle time to talk over the phone and socialize with others. This was also reflected in the employment of sole women as telephone operators.
Women were also the primary target of harassment via telegraph and telephone in those days, a clear precedent for how women are subjected to a significantly higher amount of cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment on social media today.
Differences between men and women’s online presence and personas
Number of users
The gender of their users massively shapes the social networking sites, including marketing, interface design, sponsored ads, etc. Most websites regularly survey their demographics and roll out updates keeping in mind the age, gender, and language of their users.
Many studies have reported that there are more women on social media than there are men. A Pew research center report shows that 76% of online women use social media than 72% of all online men. So, an average of 74% of all internet users have social media accounts.
Popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram have way more women than men. In contrast, platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn had more male users. Men are also more likely to be a part of online forums. According to Pew, men are also far more likely to have multiple accounts on a social networking site. On average, though, women surpass men as far as the number of social media users is concerned.
Frequency of use
It is also observed that women use social media more frequently than men. A study by Comscore, a company that measured internet traffic, shows that women spend much more time on social media, with a worldwide average of 6.5 hours per month compared to 5 hours per month by an average man.
In North America, the same trend follows. Women spend 7.9 hours on social media per month on average versus 6 hours by men. Getting into the specifics, women are more likely to have a higher number of Facebook friends and more posts on their timelines than men. Similarly, women post more frequently on Instagram and follow more people than men do.
Men, however, spend more time on YouTube (an hour per week) than women (35 minutes per week). About 25% of men using the internet watch a YouTube video daily, while only 17% of women online do the same. Men are also more inclined to spend more time than women on websites like LinkedIn and Google Plus.
Purpose of use
Men and women use social media for very different purposes, it seems. Let’s take a closer look into all the different facets of social media and how they’re used by men and women.
Women use social networking sites to foster relationships with their family, friends, co-workers far more than men do. Women are more likely to express affection and other expressions of friendship. They also have more expressions of romantic love.
Women publish more photos of their friends, name and tag them in their posts, send birthday wishes and other congratulatory messages more than men do. Women comment on others’ posts more often and more positively. A study about the platform MySpace found that women both give out and get more positive emotion, which makes their social life better. The data suggest that men use social media to form new relationships and interact with other people. In contrast, women use them to maintain already existing relationships.
Men outdo women in using social media for business-related purposes. The number of male users on LinkedIn – the business-oriented website exceeds the number of female users. Many men use social media to garner influence, data, and information related to their business, contacts and connections, and overall status.
Men are more calculative of the way they handle their social media accounts. They also follow more business-related accounts compared to women. It is believed that Google plus also counts significantly more male followers because it is necessary for Google businesses to register on Google plus, and since more business owners are men, there are more male accounts on the platform.
Women again outnumber men when it comes to interacting with brands and companies on social media. Women follow multiple brands on Instagram and keep up to date on their new content. They are also more likely to comment under posts by companies than men.
More than half of women using the internet interact with brands, access deals and promotions, and display support. In comparison, only 36% of men online do the same. Women shop on the internet and through social media and online shops far more than men do.
Emotional expression –
Women are said to have a higher emotional quotient than men. This one we know isn’t entirely by nature, but rather men are taught to not be overly emotional and that being emotional is considered weak and girly. This suppresses emotional maturity and development in young men.
The same is also reflected online. Men are less social on social media apps; they express affection, admiration, and positive emotions way less than women do. The only few characteristics that they can show are the masculine ones – anger, aggression, confidence, etc. Men online are less friendly than women and rarely show romantic gestures.
It is observed that women use happier phrases online, like ‘wonderful,’ ‘yayy,’ ‘love you,’ ‘excited,’ etc.
Sports and news – Men talk about sports and news way more than women do. On social media, men often discuss sports and videogames, politics, and news. Among the most used keywords by men, it includes, ‘government’, ‘freedom’, ‘country’, ‘rights’, ‘gay’, ‘economy’, ‘football’, ‘season’, ‘team’, ‘goal’, ‘fight’, ‘xbox’, ‘win’, etc.
Studies suggest that men use social media for information exchange more so than women do. Men talk about more abstract topics and political importance while women talk more about personal and tangible things. It cannot be inferred that women have less interest in politics, however, because when women do talk about it, they receive flak fueled by misogyny. A social experiment by journalist Martin Belam showed that women get more pushback and offensive comments for the same comments that a man wouldn’t.
Photo-based platforms vs. text-based platforms –
There is a clear gender divide when it comes to the user gender demographics of photo-based platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, versus text-based platforms like Reddit, LinkedIn, etc.
According to a report by Spredfast, Snapchat’s user base is 70% women and 30% men. Similarly, Pinterest’s user base is 60% women. Instagram and Facebook correspond to 58% and 52% women, making for a higher number of female accounts than males. Twitter, however, has 53% men, and LinkedIn has 55% men.
When we post content on social media, especially photos of ourselves, we are often driven by the desire to make a good impression.
Women and men generally use different ways to achieve that. Women often make direct eye contact in the picture, post bust-shots, while men post full-body pictures. Women have more selfies on their timelines, while men have a higher number of group pictures. Women post more food pictures, while men post more outdoor pictures which show their adventurous side.
The differences are starker among young people. Teenage girls are more likely to post ‘seductive pictures’ and ‘cute dog filter pictures,’ but young boys are more inclined to post content about partying, smoking and drugs, and other risky behaviors.
Influencers are an integral part of the social media scene these days. Like, a cog in the wheel without which the machine wouldn’t function quite as smoothly. A lot of people online across platforms are influencers, and the field is almost 80% women.
It is worth mentioning that even though the influencer industry is mainly women, on average, men are paid more for promoting brands and sponsors. The gender pay gap is quite high. Because of that, quite a few influencers have started to buy Instagram followers or buy Instagram likes to get ahead of the game and earn more.
There are slightly higher numbers of women bloggers than men out there. It has been observed that women start blogging quite earlier than their male counterparts.
Women are generally more likely to write personal, creative, and diary-like blogs, whereas men are more inclined to write more informative and technical blogs. There is a difference in their writing styles as well as the language used.
Privacy and security
There have been many studies regarding gender and privacy concerns on social media. They suggest that women and men differ in the type of private information they share and the information they hold back.
Most studies agree that women are more likely to have a private profile on Instagram and Facebook IDs where you can’t add them as friends. Women also often withhold specific information such as their sexual orientation, phone number, and residential address. Another Pew research center report found that girls are less inclined to share their last name, city, or town among minors. In other words, information that can be used to track them. These concerns about security link to cyberbullying and stalking.
The language that women and men use to communicate over social media is very different from each other as well.
Men use authoritative language, full of confidence, and formal, while women use more informal language. Statistics allege that men respond more negatively in conversations while women use softer and more positive language.
Women use more emojis, exclamation marks and ellipses than men do. They are also likely to spell certain words differently to convey excitement and happiness, for eg, ‘soooo,’ ‘yasss,’ ‘nooo wayyyy.’ Expressions like ‘OMG,’ ‘lmao’ etc are also predominantly used by women. Women also use the hesitant lexicons ‘hmmm’ and ‘ummm’ quite often as well. On the other hand, swear words and offensive language were used more by men than women.
Reports show that men are more likely to cyberbully women and other men than women. More men hide behind anonymous profiles, which they use to verbally abuse, stalk, or threaten other users with violence. People who committed cyber forgery or stole someone else’s identity were also mostly men.
Women cyberbully way less than men do but report being on the receiving side of the bullying more often than men.
Academic performance of students
Studies show that the use of social media has increased among students from a small 12% in 2005 to a whopping 90% now. They also suggest that students who are rational with their time on social media do well in academic situations. Those who don’t use social media wisely are likely to get addicted and perform poorly on exams.
A study in the University of Sharjah on 328 students concluded that while men are far more likely to get addicted to social media, it’s women who feel that irrational use of social media harms their academics.
While it’s true that there are many differences in social media usage patterns between men and women, let us look at some similarities. A study reports that both men and women alike are equally likely to share correct information about their birthday, their partner’s name, their own political inclinations and opinions, and other information about their academics on their social media pages.
Other genders on social networks
In 2014, Facebook rolled out a new update. Users could select their gender from a vast array of 56 gender identities. This step was taken to make the platforms more inclusive of queer people. Later, the social media platform also included the options for selecting gender-neutral relationship identities as well. Other platforms are also doing the same. Gender scholars and critics claim that gender is a spectrum of identities, and the same is being reflected on social media now.
Different patterns can be observed in social media usage by men and women. These patterns differ a lot from each other. It is a difficult task to account for all the differences, but a lot of them do arise because of the gendered upbringing of children and the conditioning of young men and women into socially acceptable behaviors from their genders. In the online space, men mostly align with traditional masculinity and women align with femininity. It is easy to identify men’s profiles, and which belong to women by merely analyzing textual clues.
Although there are many exceptions to the rule, since men and women often reject the ideas of gender roles, which also reflects in their social media presence.