Women and Social Networking

We have been talking extensively in class about the sharing of private information online. Missing from this conversation is the aspect of gender. I came across this article today on Jezebel, “Is Facebook ‘Girly?’? How Men and Women Use Social Media.” The article is written in response to a Forbes article that recently came out discussing “What Men and Women are Doing on Facebook.” The Forbes article cites that:

“the 400-million member site [Facebook] is 57% female and attracts 46 million more female visitors than male visitors per month. Plus, women are more active on Facebook. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says women on Facebook have 8% more friends and participate in 62% of the sharing. “The social world is led by women,” she concludes. And they’re leading that charge online.”

While women use social networks to share and connect, men only use these sites to increase their status. Jezebel responds by saying:

“So let’s say it’s true that women mostly use social media to share experiences — and, as the Forbes article has a duty to point out, be marketed to — and men to post on news sites and promote their careers. If we critique this as something that perpetuates women’s exclusion from influence and power, are we internalizing the belief that if a woman does something, it’s necessarily inferior?”

Does it matter that there are differences in the online behavior or men and women? Is it problematic that there are differences? Personally, I don’t think so. Not everyone uses the Internet for the same reason. However, I don’t think that we can chalk up differences in behavior to gender alone. Age, race, location, access, education – all of this attributes can make a difference in online behavior. Grouping people by their sex creates an incomplete picture.

2 responses to “Women and Social Networking

  1. Very interesting post Jori, thanks. I think that there are gender difference in the way we communicate (particularly as analyzed by Deborah Tannen). Yet we must recognize that most of these differences are the result of socialization and therefore not innate, as many sociobiologists claim. This means that there is more flexibility and dynamic aspects to these differences. I think that this can lead to power differences based on gender in a capitalist society that rewards assertiveness and power.

  2. This is a really interesting point you bring up and I think it connects quite nicely to this stereotype that we often hear of women as being expressive and men as not communicative. In addition to the other axes of identity you bring up it would also be important to see how sexual orientation could also be something to factor into the varying uses of social networking tools.
    Additionally, perhaps we should look at the structures and marketing of these tools in the first place. There may be a conscious decision on the part of Digg or Facebook or Twitter to advertise their tools as being something that women might not have been offered through the internet. If this is the case then these trends say nothing about the behavior of men and women on these sites, but rather it is about the gendered production of these tools.