It is no doubt that the role of social media has transformed from merely aiding in the establishments of relationships to the expression of gender identity. Perhaps the transformation borrows from the ubiquity of the new information technologies and their ability to conform to the varied needs of users. Today, more people have an opportunity to express themselves in more honest and open through the use of social media. It is not surprising therefore that a huge number of the users have taken advantage of the platform through an expression of their identities (Milford, 2013). All across the world, users have continually explored such sites as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram in showing other users how they would like to be perceived in the general realm of the world. Incidentally, a general outlook of most social media platforms gives an understanding of a new world order in which the common people have the opportunity of expressing their identities to the world. Ultimately, the role of social media in furthering the expression of different identities cuts across the subject of gender.
Unfortunately, the social media revolution has sufficed at a time when gender inequality thrives in society and especially with regard to the role of women. It is true that there is a general lack of females in the field of information technology having been dominated by the opposite male gender. While the use of social media as a platform for self-expression is becoming more popular, the gap between the male and female users of social media is increasing. The revelation is further evident in the development of different trends over the recent past and the eventual death of these trends. Trends over the past three years depict a similar trend of expression with females and males expressing their identities in seemingly different patterns. Perhaps some of these differences arise from the very fact that more males are involved in the development of these platforms and the content that is shared on the platforms (Correa et al, 2010). In the end, the interests of male figures are more expressed in these platforms than female interest thus giving rise to a drop in the number of female users. Overall, females are much more disadvantaged in their use of social media platforms compared to their male counterparts.
Although women have faced discrimination in the information technology sector, the use of social presents an opportunity for the fairness of expression (Bradley, 2003). Indeed, the female species has struggled to attain recognition in society through minimal access to positions of authority and resources. Perhaps, the reason for the increase in this discrimination stems from culturally held beliefs that could have gone through the process of evolution to remain impactful in today’s modern world. The inequality witnessed within the physical world has extended its roots to include the information technology sector through increased involvement of men in the development of these technologies at the expense of women. According to Paasonen (2011), the social media platform has a different perspective with a holistic approach in gender participation. There is a wide array of literature with regard to the specific representation of male and female genders on social media. In particular, the expression of each of the two genders is thoroughly studied in this paper with a focus on the presence of females. Further, the contribution of females to the trends on social media is determined through an analysis of the past three years.
The general interactions among different people influence the views that a society holds with respect to different issues. In the past, interactions were much more personal and limited in scope as people interacted in close proximity. It is not surprising that people only interacted with members of their communities and those of adjacent communities. According to Sarmento (2012), the information age has brought along technological innovations that enhance the level of interaction between people in different locations. The wave of technology has facilitated the instant communication between strangers, relatives, and friends without having to meet physically. In general, therefore, technology has heralded a new face of human communication and interaction by removing distance barriers. The use of social media is the equivalent of a physical society but with the replacement of physicality with online content. Moreover, social media facilitates the incorporation of different cultures that are thousands of miles apart through the interaction of people from different parts of the world.
In addition to the enhancement of interactions and communications, social media has the potential of changing the general social equilibrium (Webster, 1996). Indeed, social media has greatly transformed the perception of society through increased focus on one’s appearance and conduct. In this regard, there is a tendency for social media users to generate and develop new characters online to fit the description aspired by other users. In the pursuit of desirable characteristics, individuals have strived to become different by deviating from their true nature and having artificial traits. In most cases, the people that these people interact with are strangers and have never met physically. The new setting is, unfortunately, more sensitive to users of the female gender as opposed to those of male inclination (Burfoot, 2006). Users of female gender have the tendency of expressing their identities through the sharing of photos and personal information thus exposing their lives much more than the male counterparts. Women are not solely to blame for this outcome as there is a general tendency for women to get more attention on social media platforms thus necessitating the need to share even more personal aspects of their lives.
Research has often associated the use of social media to be different among females and males. In fact, men are much more likely to apply social media platforms in seeking information and knowledge on specific issues of interest. On the other hand, women have a likelihood of using social media sites in connecting with people. In addition, males are inclined towards the use of social media in connecting with new contacts while women use the same platform to sustain existing relationships. The difference between the interactions in the two genders is perhaps most evident in the nature of content shared across different social media platforms. For instance, a recent study observed that female users had the tendency of posting content with more personal issues including their relationships and family matters (Keller, 2016). In contrast, male users had the tendency of discussing and sharing more abstract issues including politics and news affecting the general lives of the people. A study of the content shared on social media sites such as Facebook over the last three years indicates support for this trend. It is not surprising therefore that men and women prefer certain topics with more female issues receiving more attention including birthdays and family fun. On the other hand, issues inclined to the male users received much more comments through discussions thus confirming the aforementioned theory.
Despite the clear difference between male and females in the content shared, it would be illogical to declare that women are not interested in abstract topics per se (Margolis & Fisher, 2002). The fact that women are less likely to share such content does not disqualify them from having any interest whatsoever. Perhaps the reason for the absence of abstract content among females is due to the potent of negative feedback directed towards this specific gender. It is no doubt that women face more abusive and intimidating feedback when they express their opinions. Recent examples have confirmed the existence of misogynist comments directed towards female users in social media (Keller, 2016). In part, the increase in abusive comments directed towards women stems from the domination of the male gender in almost all aspects of human life. The cultural attachment associated with the superiority of the male gender is perhaps to blame for the increase in female abuse on social media. A research conducted by The Guardian further provides proof of this inequality with about 80% of the most abused journalist being women after an analysis of over 75 million comments on their website.
The social media platform of choice for females and males is also varied depending on the content they intend to share online. Consequently, there are social media sites that are much more dominated by females compared to men with others having male domination. Generally, female users will base their preferences on visual platforms with men gravitating towards platforms that are oriented towards the text. The very fact that females prefer visual platforms is evidenced through the huge following that women have on sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. On the contrary, other social sites that are text oriented such as Twitter, Digg or Reddit have more male users owing to their ability to stir public discussions. Ultimately, women are more drawn to the production and sharing of visual content as opposed to their male counterparts (Keller, 2016). Even this inclination has some roots in the traditional role of women as family custodians and therefore taking family photos. In this regard, therefore, visual social media platforms are nothing but an extension of the traditional female practice that is anchored around the popularization of photography. The difference in content is also evident in the fact that more women share selfies than men with the number of female selfies always being higher than that of male photos. In another study, men that take a significantly higher number of photos have been observed to possess narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies.
The very nature of social media allows for the sharing of content motivated by users’ desire to express their identities through a good impression. All across the social media platforms, men and women continually upload and share posts regarding their identities and associate with other people of similar character. Despite this commonality, men and women differ in the manner that they present themselves on social media. In most cases, women are bound to share more portrait photos that have direct eye contact that captures their personalities (Keller, 2016). On the contrary, men have the tendency of sharing photos that capture the full body with pictures that capture other people as well. In addition, male users have the likelihood of posting outdoor photos that capture not only their visual features but the adventurous nature of their exploits. Perhaps the differences in content sharing among users are most prevalent in young users who use the gender stereotypes in building their online personas. It is not surprising, therefore, those teenage girls are likely to post seductive photos in a bid to attract more attention through likes. On the other hand, young boys have the tendency of sharing risky behaviors such as engagement in sex or alcohol.
The difference in social behavior across social media platforms among females and males has been studied in the literature. For instance, it is generally accepted that male users have a tendency of promoting themselves through sharing of writings, creative work and videos online. About 75% of male users have at least shared their work online compared to only 50% in women (Paasonen, 2011). Perhaps the reason for this difference is largely due to the very nature of communication in men and women across the social media. While men are likely to use authoritative language, women are much more likely to use polite language. Further, men prefer to use formal language of speech when communicating as opposed to women that prefer informal modes of communication. However, women are more likely to use positive and warmer words in responding to interactions as opposed to males that respond negatively to most interactions. The difference between men and women in this respect contributes to the increased expression among females. Owing to the differences in sharing of content, women have a larger need for social media as a platform of expression than their male counterparts.
Over the recent past, women have actively been involved in the creation of trends across social media. To a large extent, the creation and establishment of trends, however short-lived, serves to show the increasing use of social media as a platform of expression for women (Milford, 2013). In particular, the use of social media by women is much more emotional as captured by millions of status updates on Facebook. Women thus employ positive emotions in framing their status updates on the social media site. On the other hand, men used fact oriented wording to discuss issues on topics such as politics, football, and governance. Even the language used by online users can be effectively analyzed to make inferences about the gender of respective users with male and female users having distinct writing styles. Studies done in the recent past show women are likely to use punctuations in their writings as opposed to men. Further, the use of emoticons and repeated exclamations is associated with female users to portray changing emotions in their interactions across social media. The use of emotions in expressing the identities of women serves to cushion them against emotional breakdown and confirms their place in society as kind and polite beings.
Perhaps the importance of social media in expressing personal impressions is most evident among females. However, the society has a negative association with women that seek for attention on social media platforms. In essence, the society will often associate a woman who seeks attention on social media with loose moral values. The truth of the matter is that having a huge following can at times be used in gaining an advantage at different aspects of one’s life. Women must not be associated with negativities in their search for attention on social media as that does not always attract the wrong reasons. For instance, women may go through rough times in their physical lives and feel the need to connect with new people in search of better experiences. Quite often than not, the sharing of negative personal experiences among women on social media may help other women through the attainment of attention from other online users (Burfoot, 2006). In addition, we live in a world of increased inclusivity and the appreciation of all genders is paramount. Today, women are actively engaged in business and their association and networking on social media platforms could mean well for their businesses through sales and positive feedback.
The place of activism, especially across the gender spectrum, also plays out in social media through the facilitation of events and campaigns. Indeed, women have continually fought for gender equality and inclusivity thus gaining increased recognition in the society. Today, most of the traditionally held roles are equally shared among the two genders and the place of the woman is largely appreciated. In fact, the election of women leaders in countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, and Germany signal the growing value of women in transforming the society. The battle for equal rights across the two genders has shifted to the social media platform with feminists virtually interacting from all over the world. Indeed, the fruits of this activism are rightly visible through the increased opportunities for women in areas of social, political and economical development. Today, the modern woman has approximately the same opportunities as the male counterparts with some women receiving more chances for growth and development. The use of social media has availed a platform through which feminists can aggregate their issues and seek support from across the gender divide (Milford, 2013). Ultimately, cyber-feminism has grown in strength by receiving support from female and male users on social media.
Currently, there is a huge online presence for women that affect the manner in which people communicate on social media. In fact, women have contributed to social media trends to a great extent and have influenced the manner in which interactions are managed and sustained on these online platforms. Women have a better chance of expressing their personal experiences and identities through social media as opposed to the physical world. Consequently, the females have exploited their increasing population on social media sites to dictate and influence the trends. Also, the women have a better chance of grabbing these opportunities and empowering other women to be agents of change in their societies through the use of online media. In this regard, women have used social media not just to aid interactions and networking but to conduct serious business (Rosser, 2005). For instance, social media sites have been used in organizing campaigns and movements of civil societies and in aiding communication with government institutions. Through these interactions, women have gained an opportunity to better communicate issues that affect their gender leading to transformations in the long run.
The huge number of women followers on social media sites has transformed the manner in which people communicate. In fact, women have over the recent past supported the trends of social messaging as a better way of communicating than social media. Often times, a discussion of social media aligns towards a focus on social networks rather than social networking. In the past, men have driven the growth of social networks through their active involvement in discussions and search for information. However, the active use of social network sites to interact and communicate with women has resulted in a shift in trend (Duggan & Brenner, 2013). Today, messaging apps are gaining more popularity as compared to social network sites. For instance, Facebook messenger and Whatsapp have far more users compared to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The growth in users among social messaging apps can be attributed to the active participation of women in interactions and communications. Moreover, the emphasis on sustaining existing relationships by women has pushed the trend of social messaging to surpass social networks. Ultimately, therefore, the role of women in shaping trends on social media is a direct result of their need to express their identities.
In the next two years, over the top messaging will be a popular trend among millennials owing to the reliability it accords users. In fact, research has shown that young people prefer SMS messaging alongside over the top messaging applications as a way of communication. Over 60% of millennials have their loyalty on brands that engage them via the messaging channels for their personal appeal (Correa et al, 2010). It is expected that over two billion users will be communicating via over the top messaging in the next two years. The reason for this increase is attributable to the collaboration, transparency and personal touch that one on one communication avails. The trend is specifically instigated by women who prefer these attributes in the channel of communication. The trend has forced businesses to adapt with many companies taking advantage of the large audience on social messaging platforms. For instance, Facebook has a feature where users can click on an ad and they are directed to a chat window that communicated directly to the brand. Indeed, most brands have recognized the advantage of social messaging over social networks thus increasing their presence in these platforms. As this happens, it goes without saying that the trend has been affected by the huge number of women on social media and messaging platforms.
Still, women continue to influence the working of social media and the world in general through trends that they set. In particular, more people are turning to social media as the primary source of news as opposed to the mainstream news media. In fact, the newspaper, television, and radio have diminished in the number of consumers to the benefit of the internet. Women have been at the forefront in setting this trend as they are more concerned with summaries and not detailed accounts of happenings as the case would be in traditional news setting (Lenhart et al, 2010). However, the power of social media in disseminating news and events has been compromised by the entry of fake news outlets. A case in point would be the 2016 US general election in which fake news was shared regarding the candidates leading to misinformation. The new age of internet users is tech savvy who get their news and information from social media sites. In this regard, they stand to be compromised as far as the acquisition of information is concerned. The good thing is that the millennials appreciate honesty and will, therefore, investigate the validity and authenticity of news propagated through social media before consuming the same. The role of women in this undertaking cannot be gainsaid or assumed.
Another trend that is dominantly attributable to women is the emergence of live videos on social media sites. Perhaps the emergence of live videos draws from the fact that women prefer visual content in their interactions on social media platforms. Indeed, YouTube’s development is based around the concept of videos that capture unfiltered content. Based on this idea, social media sites have developed features that offer the visual content in real time with Twitter and Facebook having implemented the features. Today, major news sources are citing such features in their reporting of events as they unfold. The desire for much more engagement and interaction among women users of social media may have had a hand in the development of these features (Correa et al, 2010). In fact, social videos have more engagement than other formats and have generally increased interactions among users on these platforms. The fascination with live videos among the major social media platforms is attributed to the trends set by women and their love for visual and pictorial content. It is not, therefore, surprising that most of the users of these features are predominantly female.
The love of selfies among female social media users has resulted in the setting of the augmented reality trend. Indeed, women are more fascinated with selfies with a large number of females posting selfies as compared to male counterparts on social media (Sarmento, 2012). Snapchat was the first to herald the augmented reality feature through its selfies lenses and other social media platforms such as Facebook are following suit. The Pokémon Go app further turned the augmented reality into a sensation back in 2016 with millions of users rushing to experiment the feature. Although the augmented reality is an old feature, it has only started to go viral with the integration into social media. Perhaps the role of women in pushing for this integration goes far beyond the mere love for selfies. Usually, social media sites hold surveys in which the views of users are used in formulating new features in the future. With the huge following on social media platforms, women have managed to influence the development of such features to suit their needs when interacting and communicating with friends.
While augmented reality provides users with an opportunity to share experiences rather than just information, Chatbots also provide a chance for businesses to communicate with customers. The beauty of this feature is that it allows for users to respond to comments immediately thus becoming a darling of most businesses. Ideally, the feature is based around the very concept that women attract more attention thus treating most businesses as females. By encouraging communication and feedback, the feature has the potential of improving customer service for companies that embrace it. In addition, the feature has intelligence and an ability to help people in the completion of transactions, answering questions as well as consumption of content. The advantage of this feature is outlined in the fact that more than 40% of people prefer social media to phone calls when seeking customer support (Sarmento, 2012). The nature of this feature is that it allows for polite and casual tones in communicating with customers. Further, the feature confers the customer with a tool for self-service in resolving their customer support issues in a brief and efficient manner.
The use of social media is not confined to social interactions but has expanded to include the normal running of personal and business lives. Today, every reputable organization has a social media page that it uses to communicate with its stakeholders. For instance, social media has been used in the organization of civil society movements and as a platform for conducting business. The female gender has not been left behind in the exploitation of social media platforms through self-empowerment in terms of social, political and economic aspects. Consequently, these women have interacted amongst themselves thus enhancing the exchange of ideas and the pooling of resources for the benefit of women (Duggan & Brenner, 2013). Further, social media is an important source of information regarding various aspects of society. The platform provides users with a reliable source of information thus providing people with better prospects of success. Women have continually explored social media in educating each other on issues that affect them including health, finance, and politics. Perhaps the basis of this exploration is anchored around the axiom, that education provides women with higher leverages in fighting against gender inequalities.
Following the development of social media and the interest that women attract on the platforms, there are generally more female users on such sites as Pinterest than men. However, it is most likely that trolls are more commonly male thus showing two sides of a similar coin. The reason for this outcome is based on the very notion of social media and its ability to provide opportunities for identity and self-expression. While females express themselves in a certain pattern, males, on the other hand, have a different way of expressing themselves. Consequently, social media has led to the development of behaviors that are gender specific with most people inclining towards these behaviors. While men often exhibit these behaviors through the use of social media to gain information and knowledge on aspects that affect their lives, women employ social media platforms in expressing themselves and networking. Further, men have a tendency of using social media in crafting new relationships while women focus on the sustenance of existing relationships. Clearly, women are now more involved in social media, albeit with different interests and goals.
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