He Said, She Said: The Social Networking Gender Gap

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As the use of social networking sites increases, different genders begin to use the sites in different ways for different reasons.

By Celina Wu
<cwu@hilite.org>

When she arrives home after school, junior Jayne Stelzer has a routine. This routine of hers almost always includes logging onto her Facebook account, which she said she has had since her freshman year, for about an hour.

Similarly, spending time on Facebook is also a daily occurrence for junior Zane Anderson. In addition to a Facebook account, Anderson said he is also has a Twitter account. “I usually spend anywhere from 10 minutes to about an hour and half or so a day on these sites,” he said. “I’ve had a Facebook for about three and a half years now, and I just got a Twitter about a year ago.”

Both Stelzer and Anderson spend time on social networking sites almost every day after school, but if they hold true to the results from a recent study released in April by Forbes magazine, their similarities may end there.

That study indicated that women more often use social networking sites to make connections and share items from their personal lives while men tend to use them to gather information and increase their status.

Psychology teacher Robin Pletcher said she can see how men and women might approach social networking sites differently because of basic gender differences. “Women are more relationship – people – and connection oriented,” she said. “Men are more about status, and they are more career-based and concerned about success. I can see where females are wanting to have a network of friends and want to make those connections, whereas men tend to be less in-depth and look to those sites as a way to boost their careers or status.”

For Stelzer, when she is on Facebook, she said she communicates with her friends via Facebook chat or wall posts, uploads pictures on some occasions or plays the game “Sorority Life.” Besides keeping up with her school friends, Stelzer also said she utilizes Facebook to keep in touch with people she does not get a chance to see or talk to every day.

“Facebook is a good way for me to keep track of all of my friends. It is an easy way for me to talk to all my friends from summer camp in northern Indiana at Lake Tippecanoe,” Stelzer said. “I also have a boyfriend who lives in Iowa, so Facebook makes it easier to talk to him as well.”

In comparison, Anderson said he also talk to his friends on Facebook chat, but also does other activities that are not as concerned with communication. He said, “I’ll typically look through groups that I am a part of on Facebook and throw out a new status besides talking to people on chat.”

Also, Anderson said he will usually look for certain people’s recent tweets on Twitter and make his own tweet every once in a while.

According to psychology teacher Peter O’Hara, it is not surprising to him that women use social sites more for connections while men do not.

“It is not unusual for men to look at just about everything differently than women. Men are raised in society to be a bit more aggressive, and men want to get a leg up. They tend to see the world as a hierarchy, more up and down,” he said. “Women see the world as a circle of communication that’s based in their circle of family and friends. It’s important for women to connect, stay in touch and make new friends.”

Similarly, the same Forbes article stated that three-quarters of women use online communities to stay up-to-date with friends and family, and 68 percent use them to connect with others like them.

The article also mentions that women make up the majority of the users on many of the biggest social networking sites that exist presently. These sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Flickr. While these social sites consists of mostly female users, the article states that men, on the other hand, are most active on sites such as YouTube, LinkedIn or Digg, which are all most content-oriented and promotional sites than discussion-based.

In regards to this Forbes article, both Anderson and Stelzer said they agree with its contents.

“Without a question, women and men do you use social sites differently,” Anderson said. “I agree that women use those sites more for connections because it seems like girls tend to share more pictures or personal stuff, like notes or emotional posts on Facebook, rather than just saying they’re bored or something like guys tend to do.”

Stelzer also said she definitely agrees that men and women are different when it comes to these social sites. She said, “I feel like girls like to talk a lot. Facebook or Twitter makes it easier to talk to a lot of people at once. I also do think that guys are more competitive about it, like competing to get more friends.”

About the competitiveness of men, Anderson said he has seen fellow males try to act cooler and increase their social status through social sites. However, he said this does not apply to him personally because he uses these sites more for informational and communication purposes.

Overall, O’Hara said it would make sense that men and women have different intents in their usage of the various social networking sites. He said this is because men and women have different ways of looking at the world and have different roles in society.

Stelzer said she agrees with this statement. She said, “We are different in every other way, so it would only make sense that we’re different when using social sites as well.”

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