by Lindsay Wong
You may have not noticed, but men and women use social media platforms in totally different ways, highlighting gender-specific behaviours. When scrolling through networks like Instagram and Facebook, men use different language and post content that is completely different from women. So how do we explain this gender-specific behaviour?
Reasons for Using Social Media
Social media is a great way for people to stay connected – females use it more for this purpose while males tend to use it as a means to obtain information. Females generally use social media to maintain existing relationships while males usually use it to create new ones, according to a 2012 study. Social marketer Neil Patel found that 69% of women compared to 54% of men use Facebook to keep in touch with friends.
According to research from Facebook, females tend to share more personal topics, such as relationship and family issues. Males prefer to discuss more abstract and sometimes controversial issues like politics, but when females do so, they often receive more abusive and condescending comments when expressing their opinions online.
A Twitter experiment by British journalist Martin Belam – where he spoof-tweeted as male and female celebrities – showed that when he presented himself as a woman, the account received significantly more offensive and misogynist comments. News media The Guardian also found that 8 out of 10 abused journalists were female, based on their 70 million online comments.
As a result, females might feel hesitant to discuss important matters online, leading to gender-skewed discussions on issues like politics and even feminism.
Reflecting Traditional Gender Stereotypes
Females usually gravitate more towards visual platforms and pay attention to aesthetics, with curated profiles and feeds. According to Pew Research Center, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram have a larger female user base, while men utilise text-oriented platforms like Reddit or Twitter more, which could explain how they’re more vocal about their opinions, preferring to have lengthy discussions about all kinds of matters.
This preference for social media could explain why females tend to receive more likes and reactions on their posts, while males tend to receive more comments.
A Selfieexploratory project found that the number of female selfies is always significantly higher, and that females prefer to post portraits compared to men who prefer body shots. An Indiana University study showed that teenage females like to post more seductive photos, while males prefer shots related to risky behaviours, alcohol, or sex.
While men and women produce almost equal amounts of creative work like art or music, almost two-thirds of men reported posting their work online while only half of women reported doing so, according to a study by Northwestern University.
Differences in Language
Gender-specific language on social media is similar to conversational language face-to-face. Because of language behaviour, it’s possible to identify the gender of someone online based on how they write.
Men tend to use more formal speech, offensive words, and possessive language (eg. using the pronoun ‘my’ when mentioning their wife or girlfriend) than women. As males are more prone to sharing opinions online, they also use words with negative connotations or offensive words more often.
On the other hand, women are more sensitive about their language online and tend to use more emotional words like ‘excited’ and ‘love’. They also use more positive language with personal pronouns (eg. you, me), emojis, non-standard spelling of words (eg. nooo waaay), punctuations (eg. ellipses), and hesitant words (eg. hmmm) in conversations. A Twitter analysis from Johns Hopkins University found that women used the expressions ‘OMG’ and ‘LOL’, while ‘yeah’ is more associated with men.
Online trolling is commonly done more by men than women; according to Psychology Professor Mark Griffiths, they do it as a way to vent their frustration and aggression on the internet because they may not be able to do it face-to-face like women.
The ways in which men and women behave on social media is reflective of gender roles in society. Women can’t share opinions online without being attacked, while men commonly use authoritative language online to show who’s in charge. It’s interesting to see how social media etiquette can say a lot about society and how women are still judged, despite advancements in women’s rights in recent decades.