Boys vs. Girls: Gender Differences in Social Media

We all know girls and boys behave differently on various social media platforms. Take “selfies” – this is quite clearly a female-skewed trend. Actually, while researching for this blog post I came across a project called “Selfiexploratory” which is actually pretty interesting and might inspire a later post for someone! Anyways, the project analyzed over 3200 Instagram selfies from 5 cities across the world and found that the ratio of female to male was always higher (for example, in New York City, 61.6% of selfies analyzed were posted by women).

Selfiexploratory is just one example. Even by simply observing my friend’s habits on social media, the gender differences are clear. My female friends posts on social media are often pointless statements, usually stream of consciousness type remarks or posts. On the other hand, my male friends usually post more matter-of-fact statements about specific occurrences like sports, events, etc.

Examples (yes these are real posts by my friends, I hope you find them slightly humorous):

Female:

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Valuable information.

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Some more valuable information.

Male:

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Research shows that men are much more active on content-oriented sites such as YouTube, while women are more active on sites that facilitate communication and connection. As this Forbes article states, “While women often use online social networking tools to make connections and share items from their personal lives, men use them as means to gather information and increase their status”. These differences can be attributed to the female tendency n to seek connections with those around them. Women like to talk more than men and are more inclined to share personal information. Sherry Bowen, a gender and communications professor at Villanova attributed these differences in social media usage to characteristics we picked up as children; “Girls learn to build relationships by sharing social information. Boys learn to compare and compete with others, always striving for more success.” Another researcher went back even further than childhood lessons, and believes the female tendency to seek connections and the male tendency towards competition and boasting can be traced back to early evolutionary ancestors, where males were competitive with one another and females worked together to form communities.

I think these finding are so interesting. I always knew men and women behaved differently on various social media outlets since we behave differently in almost all situations, not just through our online personas. But, social media is so new to all of our lives. I would have never expected that evolutionary or developmental concepts could be used to explore these different behaviors. I’d like to look more into what the implications are of these differences. I read an article recently from Time in the  “Love and Relationships” section that was called “What Men Share on Social Media But Not With You“. It says that since females have much more practice sharing their feelings with others, as mentioned above, they are likely to do so on social media. Men, on the other hand, would prefer to only share things on social media, because then they don’t have experience the reactions they receive in real-time. Maybe I’ll explore if there is any concrete research on how social media affects relationships for another post (I think we can all come up with some ideas without any concrete research).

12 comments

  1. This is an interesting concept! It makes sense that the difference in what men and women post on social media would be related to their interactions offline. When I post things on my personal Facebook or Twitter they are usually related to a sports game that I am watching, a joke aimed at one of my male friends or a competition with a friend. When my wife posts things on Facebook they are usually much more sentimental, heartfelt, or cute (funny animal questions). I think in terms of social media their are also other factors that come into play with regard to what people post. I think one of the most important factors are the age of the person posting and whether they grew up with social media. My wife didn’t grow up with social media, Twitter and Facebook came around when she was already in college. While she does use social media often, she doesn’t post personal information on these sites. It was never a means of interpersonal communication for her growing up.

  2. I kept shaking my head and laughing to myself at how true everything in this blog post is. I went through my Non-IS6621 related Twitter account and 55% (literally) of what I tweet is related to sports. In my first blog post, I also talked about how I use Twitter as my daily newspaper, getting most of my info from their instead of the WSJ or Times. However, the one section of your blog that I challenge you on is your insinuation that men are more competitive on social media. I think that because females are typically more connection oriented, they expect higher interaction with their peers. And because everyone is at least somewhat competitive, this combination drives females to put forth much more effort in garnering the attention of their circles, thus creating a greater sense of competition. Maybe it’s just how the dominoes have fallen in today’s day in age, but I think boys expect to get fewer likes on a picture/post than a female equivalent would. Still, fascinating post.

  3. I definitely agree with you, Alissa. As a female, I am normally posting pictures with my friends or articles that are inspirational and emotional. Maybe the reason men post more sports related content is they want to project themselves as masculine. Lauren’s blogpost from this week also discussed some of theses ideas in relation to the looking glass self. The Selfiexploratory is such a good research idea. I wonder if deeper analysis into the specific sample would provide more insights into the motivations of taking a selfie. One of the reasons I think the selfie is so popular among women is that they seem to care much more about their outward appearance. Therefore I think it would be interesting to see the motivations and backgrounds for men who post selfies– perhaps they just care about their appearance, are trying to appeal to other men, really want to show off a good outfit, etc.

  4. Really interesting post, Alissa. Your discussion about the differences in behavior observed based on gender got me thinking about whether the various platforms appeal to proportionately more men or women. I found this interesting article http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/user-demographic-highlights-from-5-major-and-growing-social-networks-38939/
    that summarizes the results from the Pew Research Center’s study on social networks back in December 2013 in which they discovered, not surprisingly, that the different social media platforms appeal to different segments of the market. The article brings to light some really key insights, but more specific to the topic of your blog post I learned that…
    -Facebook appeals particularly to women (76%)
    -Men are more likely to use LinkedIn than women
    -Women are 4 times more likely than men to use Pinterest
    -There is virtually no gender disparity in Twitter usage
    I’d be interested to learn more about the ways businesses use this data about the users on various platforms to inform their social strategies. I think this would be a really interesting topic to pull as a theme through out your blog posts this semester if you wanted to!

  5. I loved this post, Alissa! We always have our attention focused on how different age groups use social media, but the differences in gender usage is almost never discussed. I definitely see your findings to be true amongst my college friends. My guy friends are constantly putting up posts of food and drinking contests or a sport related event. The girls put up more artistic photos or posts involving friendship or a sentimental moment. I wonder if this affects how men are reached on social media versus how women can be impacted. I would love to research this topic more and see how companies can adjust their marketing techniques to better reach men and women.

  6. “female friends posts on social media are…usually stream of consciousness type remarks…male friends usually post more matter-of-fact statements..”

    This analysis is very familiar to me, probably one of the distinguishing characterization of the two genders I learned from a psych article or something. But it is interesting to see how these gender differences, or perhaps human traits are translated into social media. This raises interesting questions: are the changes in societal behavior today caused by social media? or is it simply a translation/amplification of any natural trait we already possess within us into a new medium of information sharing?

    Overall, a very informative blogpost! And by the way, that eyebrow waxing picture is priceless.

  7. I also loved the eyebrow waxing picture (and the post overall!) The question this brings to mind for me is – will the gender discrepency as it relates to social media usage change over time? I would venture a guess that it would. Just as it’s becoming more common for women to to work and men to stay home with kids (for example) I think that it will become more common for men to post more “emotional” comments on social media, and for women to post more “competitive” ones (as another example). In other words, I think that as society and social norms make for a more equal playing field, the changes will be reflected in social media as well. I know this is a bit of a bold statement and that it goes against evolution in a way, so, who knows – just a guess on my end!

  8. I am absolutely convinced there are differences is social media use between women and men (and I do think its worth further research if you are interested in it). Anecdotal evidence from this class says that the students are typically female, usually about 2/3, but I’ve had up to 80% women in one class. Also Pinterest was the first social platform that initially attracted far more women than men. I’m not 100% sure I agree with the statement, “Men, on the other hand, would prefer to only share things on social media, because then they don’t have experience the reactions they receive in real-time,” but the differences are clearly there.

  9. alliemanning · ·

    Your title caught my eye right away! I’ve always noticed a difference in how men and women interact on social media, but have never thought to explore it. In regards to “Selfiexploratory”, I was actually surprised that when those Instagrams were analyzed that only 61.6% were female… I can say with confidence that I think I’ve seen one, maybe two Instagram selfies posted by boys on my feed. It seems that it would be a bit higher. Additionally, the insight from the Professor at Villanova resonated with me and brought me back to younger years. I remember the boys always playing kickball and dodgeball at recess while the girls would sit around the picnic tables and talk.. probably about the boys. I agree with Farrell when she says that over time, this gender gap on social media will start to close. It is only a matter of time before men start more feeling comfortable posting their feelings all over the Internet!

  10. Nice post Alissa! The gender “norms” within social media are so interesting to me. Within my own newsfeed and social platforms I see how this is true. It makes me wonder if males/females post in such a way because they want to, or if they post in this way because it’s more accepted. You could argue that there are certain masculine and feminine traits that men and women “should” exhibit. Are they afraid of crossing that line and possibly breaking gender norms…and what would that mean in terms of a response from friends on social media? Either way, loved the ideas in this blog!

  11. It’s so nice that you shared your observation and research as well as triggered many great discussions. I am also motivated to observe my female and male friends’ posting tendency hereafter! It seems to me that people using social media tend to build their online images that they project or reflect themselves, leading to such gender difference in social media. Anyway, understanding the reasons behind would be very helpful for marketers to target their customers or for users to interact with others more smartly. Great post!

  12. Nice post! Like you, I really enjoy this topic. As social media continues to evolve, it’s always interesting to look at usage disparities. Not only is this an interesting topic physiologically speaking, but it is also incredibly important to keep in mind as managers. You always have to keep your target audience in mind in order to be as effective as possible, and that means keeping in mind how the different genders differ on social media. Selfies is one example of a social media trend that is more female-inclined, but something like the ALS challenge seemed to catch on with both sexes (based on my personal observation, not empirical evidence). Interesting topic!

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