Social Media Gender Roles Follow Traditional Offline Trends
While it's no surprise that social media has become entwined in the lives of many American adults, a study released this week from the University of Texas reveals the priorities of men and women, and how they rely on Facebook to connect with family and community members to share social, religious and political values and views.
The study confirms Facebook's role as a social gaming platform. Third-party games and quizzes attract 58.2% of students and graduates participating in the study. And 52.1% of graduates report they will likely play games and take quizzes on a typical day.
It also raises questions on how to manage online social ties with family members, classmates and friends, according to S. Craig Watkins, associate professor of radio, television and film at University of Texas at Austin. "The study reveals interesting distinctions, and the content each tend to share are quite different," he says.
Many of the actions on Facebook appear to follow traditional psychological and physiological gender roles. For example, women -- 62.8% -- are more likely than men -- 55.6% -- to post comments and likes to their profile, suggesting that women show a greater tendency to engage in personal communication.
Women are more likely to share pictures compared with men. Watkins, who led the study with doctoral candidate H. Erin Lee, defines the content women post as "affectionate," such as pictures of family gatherings or friends hanging out and having a good time.
The photos men share reflect hobbies and landscapes. Most are more likely to post videos or links to videos, compared with still images, oriented toward pop culture, sports, entertainment or politics. Women -- 33% -- are more likely to use third-party applications, compared with men -- 30.2%.
Not many, however, use those applications to create events or send invitations on Facebook. In fact, only 32% said they do so. Among students, only 26.4% and 49.7% report that invitations involving school-related activities and organizational group meetings, respectively, are the top two reasons to create invitations for events.
Since the study analyzes male and female college students and graduates as of 2005, it's not unusual that about 65% of students say they are likely or very likely to post content about school, while 50% of graduates who work say they are less likely to post about work.
College-educated Facebook members participating in the survey who joined a civic or political group on the site were asked to think about the ways they interact with the one group they are most involved in. Analysis shows that the majority of these users do engage in different activities related to the group. but they do so infrequently. Most of the engagement with the group remains online and does not often transfer offline. Only a small number of differences were found across the demographic groups.
Among the members of civic or political groups on Facebook, 88.3% report that their groups hold meetings that take place offline. Of these members, only 13.2% say they attend them often or very often, while two-thirds say rarely or never. Men are more likely than women to post notes or links on a group's wall and to participate in a discussion board frequently.
Men and women also manage personal data differently. While both are likely to share relationship status updates and movies and books, when it comes to religious views, men are more likely to share that information. While the study did not explore why, Watkins says an analysis of the findings suggests it's not as far of a stretch from men who are willing to post political views.
As students transition from high school to college and from college to the workplace, Facebook members become more concerned about privacy and become more selective about what they post and with whom they share content.