Gendering the Uses of Social Media

By Molly DePasquale, Intern

Are the uses of social networking sites gendered? Do men and women use these sites in different ways, but still reinforce gender stereotypes?

An article by Auren Hoffman entitled “The Social Media Gender Gap” from BusinessWeek.com gives a great synopsis of reasons for a noticeable gender gap in the world of social networking websites. Hoffman goes on to talk about a study conducted by Rapleaf, which consisted of 13.2 million people and how they’re using social media. The findings indicate there is a profound use of social media by both men and women but the findings show that women’s uses far exceed men’s uses.

Some of the reasons stated by Hoffman consist of the “typical” gender stereotypes that exist in our society, such as the differences between men and women’s style of communication. In addition to a gender gap in the world of social networking, Hoffman also suggests an age gap as well. I thought this was very interesting because it goes on to say men and women in their early to late 20s are the most prominent members of social networks, but as those late 20s turn into early 30s the number of men that belong to social networks decreases.

The decrease in membership among men, with an exception of LinkedIn, is due in part to marriage. This is because most men use social networking as a tool for meeting people and expanding their professional horizons. However, married women are joining social networks at lighting speed. Hoffman states, “In fact, women between ages 35 and 50 are the fastest-growing segment.” But why is this?

The gendered gap of participation in social networking has a lot to do with the main differences between feminine and masculine communication styles. For instance, men tend to look at things in more of a transactional manner, which translates to their online activities. Women’s behavior is less transactional and more relationship oriented, which corresponds with their online activities as well.

Although some theorists have suggested the Internet and an online community will lead to a faceless contributor and a cyber-society of complete equality, as communication technologies evolve and change this doesn’t exactly prove true.

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