04.25.2010 09:57 AM

Blogs are for boys, Facebook’s for girls

That, at least, is the shorthand we use at my firm. When we design campaigns for clients, we start from the proposition that the online world is delineated into gender camps.

As a seminal Ipsos study showed a few years ago, bloggers (and those who read them) tend to be angry, white, college/university-educated males. That’s why Stephen Harper’s acolytes are so preoccupied with blogs, for example.

Facebook, meanwhile, is wildly popular with everyone – but no one as much as young, upwardly-mobile women. For quite some time, they have been gravitating to Facebook in astonishing numbers – which is why centre-left political parties (like the Liberals and the NDP) need to be doing more in the FB demi-monde (but aren’t, go figure).

The Star has an interesting column this morning about this latter phenomenon.

“…Many parents would find it difficult — impossible even — to keep their daughters from surfing, let alone texting, during the week.

And besides, is it really that unhealthy? Is 21st century texting worse than 20th century tying up the phone playing High School Confidential with all your besties? Is Facebook any different from group mall-trawling for cute outfits and cuter boys?

Apparently so, at least according to Dr. Leonard Sax, author, physician and psychologist. He sees threats to children everywhere, in unnecessary prescriptions for ADHD meds, unchaperoned parties, department stores that sell sexy Ts for 7-year-olds, and in what he calls the “cyberbubble.”

That’s skewing their self-image and their world view, Sax believes.

“Most parents have no clue how kids are using Facebook,” he says…”

That’s a truism. Most parents “don’t have a clue” how their children are using any Internet tool – because they don’t understand the Internet like their children do. As a Dad, I am constantly amazed (and concerned) about the degree to which my children have an online life – and how I can only ever glimpse the faint outlines of it.

Anyway. Suggesting that kids are more cyber-savvy than adults is stating the manifestly, glaringly obvious. My point is different. My point is that those cyber-savvy boys and girls have embraced different media within the New Media. If anyone has any theories why that is so – and it is decidedly so – comments are welcome.

20 Comments

  1. Jon Evan says:

    “BLOGS ARE FOR BOYS, FACEBOOK’S FOR GIRLS”

    That has to be the most sexist generalization I’ve read in a while!

    I don’t care if you can prove it empirically, because we know that statistics are well you know mostly nonsense — samples drawn for analysis from some mysterious ‘normal’ population which of course does not exist. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    My fav. blog of course is BLY because Joanne does such a fantastic job. But not only Joanne, her blog has many women posting — many who have their own blogs. So, maybe it’s just the Liberal blogs that are “for boys”.

    My kids, yes are cyber savvy, because they see the MSM as adult and they want their own world which they think because it’s modern then it’s better. But I have them beat regarding cyberspace. I’m in it more than them. I challenge them daily about how facebook ‘friends’ are really not friends, how blogs are biased as much as the CBC is. That there is nothing new under the sun and that the First Nations, who have been around longer than the rest of us, are right: life is a circle! Just don’t get dizzy going round!!

    • Jim says:

      No, Jon, statistics are not mostly nonsense, nor are they all “smoke and mirrors”.

      It would have helped if you had read the articles that Warren linked to (or better still reviewed the dataset from http://tctechcrunch.files.wordpress.com/facebookdemographic.png) before you spouted rubbish about “sexist generalizations” and the like.

      4,426,020 of Facebook’s 6,650,860 Canadian users are female – or 66.55%. By comparison, StatsCanada reports than women represent 50.4% of the Canadian population. Neither of those numbers are based on samples (i.e. a small but statistically representative sub-group of a population), but rather entire population sets. The Facebook data comes directly from user records while the StatsCan figures are from the census. The gap is very notable given that overall gender demographics of Internet users basically mirror the population at large (http://boingboing.net/2007/04/15/female-internet-user.html).

      I didn’t search for the original Ipsos survey data referenced in Warren’s scathing review of Michael Keren’s “book”, however the MIT study that he also cited seems fundamentally sound.

      Indeed, this blog would seem to provide an example of the trends that Warren highlighted – of the 16 different posters in this thread (including Warren and the two of us), 11 would appear to be male (either based on first name or comments like “my wife”), 3 are likely female, and 2 have no indication of gender. This of course is not remotely scientific or representative – just a nice little bit of congruity for the subject at hand.

      Seriously, Jon, ranting that the facts can’t be right because you don’t like them is about as juvenile an argument that I can imagine. “Your mother wears army boots” might have been a better option.

      All that said, the “blogosphere” does appear to be morphing, and I suspect that an update on either the IPSOS or MIT surveys (they are both more than five years old, which is eons in cybertime) would note a significant increase in female bloggers and the number of female readers/participants of blogs (as well as a much broader range of “topics”blogged about than in the mid-aughts). Such an evolution, though, would not change the fairly obvious differences in the way that both genders use the Internet, nor is it even remotely sexist to point that out.

  2. Michael Watkins says:

    I imagine some of these factors partially explain the appeal differentiation for women and men, girls and boys:

    While Blog software is often ready to use out of the box, having your own side and domain tends to invite tinkerer spirits where as Facebook is an application designed to be used out of the box more or less for the cast majority of people who are happy being users rather than tinkerers.

    A blog is typically wide open to the world, all the world. Facebook is a closed garden behind a brick wall that the world – Google – cannot see over. Folks like me see this closed garden approach as problematic, and it is for some purposes, but for small groups and cliques and kids who do not want private details openly published to the entire world, FB has a definite appeal. Women, I believe, value this more than men.

    Being accepted as part of a group / a society / a clique / a circle of friends is important for most of us but perhaps this is even more important for women on balance. Instant gratification arrives with followers/friends. Communication is direct between FB friends, where the blog / RSS – Atom syndication and other mechanisms is far more indirect.

    Centralization has its benefits too. Everything is at your doorstep in FB, while content in blogs is spread throughout the internet. A great many people do not have access to or even know about RSS/Atom syndication and following multiple sites via a convenient feed reader.

    Push vs pull: FB and Twitter both put stuff in front of your face, FB more directly so via email status updates. Personally I do not want to know about what little details go on in the lives of my friends, on a semi-real time basis, but my wife despite her equally heavy email flow is quite happy to receive FB updates from friends and family. I prefer to get updates on what people are doing at a time of my choosing, and not via email.

    FB reinforces a sense of inclusiveness and I think this is more meaningful for women than men.

    Regarding political use of FB, targeting different groups on familiar turf is just fine, but where I hope activists and parties will draw the line is to avoid using FB as their sole platform for activism.

    One recent example involved the protests against prorogation of parliament – a great deal of media interest was generated due to a FB poll. Great, but what about all the Canadians who do not participate in FB?

    Thanks to the applications and functionality built into FB it can be tempting for political groups and activists to use it for a broad campaign, but in doing so you are cutting out many Canadians who do not participate in FB, and even more importantly the content you create within FB is not there for Google to pick up on.

    Polls (and other apps) and content should be external to FB; use FB to engage people for sure, and use Twitter for that same purpose, but ensure that important content and applications (polls, surveys, etc) are available to all internet users, not just those who are found within the walled off FB garden.

  3. JS says:

    My thought would be boys are cultured towards the individualist perspective, girls more to collectivist. Boys (gross generalization) think they have something important to say, girls want to make the connections so they can hear what other think and feel.

    Of course as a guy blabbing on another guy’s blog, there’s something a little circular here, isn’t there?

  4. bigcitylib says:

    Sax also thinks boys are being “feminized” at school and should be taught to run and jump and tie knots like in days of yore.

    Anyway, I’m sure kids are using different web tools from adults–maybe for the same reason teen slang tends to invent expressions adults find obscure–but I mean, even my dear mother has a facebook page and uses Skype, so I’m not sure how far this “more web savvy” thing extends. For example, if you are 30 now you’re definitely not a kid anymore, but you’ve likely been surfing the web since you were in highschool. Remember how the Tories online strategy was a bomb in the ’08 election? My theory is that they mistook the current web demographic for what it had been a decade earlier.

  5. Tceh says:

    BLOGS ARE FOR BOYS, FACEBOOK’S FOR GIRLS

    In our household this is true. My wife is a facebooker because it keeps her in the loop with her far flung friends and she seems to thrive on daily contact with all of them. Me not so much. I don’t need that daily contact but I am more of an information/news seeker and interested in viewpoints other than mine. That is how I use the internet.

    Boys/Men = use the internet as a news/information/viewpoint seeking tool
    Girls/Women = use the internet as a social contact/friends “keep in touch” tool

    As for kids in the internet age, We follow the rule in this house that all network connected devices must be used in a public place such as the living room or kitchen. So far that works for us. There is also an awareness of cyberbullying in our school and the danger of that. My preference as a parent is to not shut out the world but give the kids an awareness of both the good and bad that exists in it, and also the tools to deal with what the world throws their way. I have no idea how successful this strategy will be. I’ll let you know in 15 years.

  6. Brian says:

    “That has to be the most sexist generalization I’ve read in a while! …I don’t care if you can prove it empirically,”

    God, no! Not an empirical generalization about consumer markets! The horror!

  7. VH says:

    Blogs are broadcast, FB is connections.

    One medium better enables people with common cause to do battle with others and the other medium better enables people with common cause to share their life with others.

    To the extent that there are gender preferences in society, therein lies the usage differences.

    Attempting to open up another front in political battles by (mis)-using FB will have decreasing marginal effectiveness over the near term since that’s at cross purposes to the reason why people use FB. Sure it’s extremely savvy right *now*, and that’s probably all that counts, but if the above holds true then eventually people will see through that strategy sooner or later.

  8. james smith says:

    Perhaps I’m too old of a digital immigrant, but the whole facebook thing unnerves me in a Winston Smith kinda way.
    But this story disturbs me more so:

    http://www.leaderpost.com/Government+fading+black+amid+misinformation+disrespect/2918666/story.html

  9. CB says:

    Really? I read about 50 blogs on a regular basis and about 45 are authored by women. Have you heard about the marketing craze to “mom bloggers?” Have you heard of BlogHer? If you are designing campaigns for clients based on these assumptions, I now understand why I hear what I do from female bloggers who receive 50+ pitches a week that range from unoriginal to irrelevant to outright ridiculous. Empirical evidence counts for something but so do statistics and research.

  10. Cathy says:

    “Suggesting that kids are more cyber-savvy than adults is stating the manifestly, glaringly obvious. My point is different. My point is that those cyber-savvy boys and girls have embraced different media within the New Media. If anyone has any theories why that is so – and it is decidedly so – comments are welcome.”

    To your point collective point Warren that “those cyber-savvy boys and girls have embraced different media within the new media, I’d say it’s so because kids being several steps ahead of the adults in their world don’t think it’s cool like that adults are honing in on their territory….so, they’re becoming masters of the media within the new media and then some. You were young once remember? Did you want to be hanging out with your parents or with your friends? Same concept different medium. When it becomes popular with adults kids move on. It’s only cool when parents don’t know about it.

  11. Aurelia says:

    Warren,

    You are asking the wrong question, and making the wrong assumptions. First, no, there is no evidence whatsoever that women only do one thing and men only do another thing. I know you don’t believe that, but it’s true.

    http://www.blogher.com/files/Social_Media_Matters_2010.pdf

    http://www.blogher.com/files/2009_Compass_BlogHer_Social_Media_Study_042709_FINAL.pdf

    You can find more out by speaking to Elisa Camahort at BlogHer. Those slides above represent just a small portion of the survey data done by Compass Ketchum Partners and Nielson Company with them. She’ll be happy to discuss it with you I’m sure.

    The issue isn’t that men and women are using different platforms, it’s that they use it for different functions. Women interact with each more, have more conversations, we use it not just as a way to access product info, company and business info but also to socialize with others, family and friends and acquaintances. Men primarily use it in a much more impersonal way. Business, politics, family, whatever, men just don’t talk about their feelings in the same way as women do, never have never will. Internet, real life, any platform anywhere.

    Women for example, use facebook, twitter and blogging for different functions. Facebook is for real names, real life friends and family and your boss and others. But no one can ever say how they actually feel about their mother in law because she’s on the friend list. Facebook used to have privacy rules, and so real pictures were ok, and silly groups. Sadly, that will now end, because the number one difference is that women get stalked and harassed if their real photos and names are online on the web for all to see. When Facebook ended Privacy they jumped the shark on all their female members. I know droves who are leaving and deleting their accounts this week. I’ve taken down most of my profile info and am sterilizing my account to barebones.

    Blogging and twitter are for fake names and actually finding other people you like who also hate their mother-in-laws and can’t say it to her face, or they’ll have a huge family fight next christmas. Families all over the world are held together by lying to each other about how we really feel.

    Women use blogging to hold each other up in the face of huge judgment about our roles in the workforce and our roles in family life. We do it there because it we can talk about our real beliefs and problems without the same face to face issues like childcare and timezones and whether we look good. No one cares what I really look like or if I’m fat or skinny on blogs and twitter. I can be the real me. That can’t happen on Facebook. I have to be fake.

    Blogs and twitter are also for e-patients and advocates who fight stigma against diseases that are discriminated against, like ADHD. Do you think that I could ever say what I say about guys like Sax under my real name? Without everyone knowing that I have ADHD? I could only do it if I was a Doctor like Umesh Jain at CAMH who has made it his life mission to fight stigma with actual medical facts, or if I was willing to be permanently shunned and rendered unemployable for life. I can’t do that. No one can.

    I am on all three platforms, and more. So are almost all the women I know, but we use them for totally different functions.

    As for younger kids, or a gender divide, nope again, lots of kids are leaving facebook or only putting the perfect public image up. After the Ryerson incident, and other problems at different universities they don’t dare do study groups or anything else, so they do that on twitter using private tweetchat rooms or on wikis with passworded posts. I do see lots of girls lying to their moms and having two facebook accounts. One real name, sanitized for parents, and one fake name where the real action happens.

  12. Blair Shumlich says:

    Disclaimer: These views I’m about to express aren’t based in any research or empirical evidence.

    Speaking as a post secondary student I think that younger men and women just have a different “style”. In 90% of my political studies courses, my economics courses and my girlfriend’s English courses it is consistently men who are the loudmouths who feel the need to argue their point. Women, on the other hand, tend to discuss all the points afterwards in a group. I know this sounds stereotypical and the more left-wing folks on your blog will skewer me for it, but it’s what I observe every day in class. Blogs are a podium for pontification–what I see out of men in my class. Facebook, on the other hand, is a a community where discussion can take place in a closed circle of people you trust/like–which is what I see out of women.

    Could be that.

  13. Steve T says:

    “…bloggers (and those who read them) tend to be angry, white, college/university-educated males. That’s why Stephen Harper’s acolytes are so preoccupied with blogs, for example.”

    Uh, THIS website is a blog, Warren. While you may be an angry, white, university-educated male, are you really one of Stephen Harper’s acolytes?

  14. Cathy says:

    “Gender divide within new media. What’s your take?”

    It would be interesting to do a random sampling of blogs owned/run by men and blogs owned/run by women and see if you see a difference in things like posts, tone, organization, topics etc. I can tell you that some women do a great job of blogs while others don’t. Does it matter when it comes to participation on a blog. Yep. Same holds true though for blogs owned and operated by men. I hate blogs that drag on and on and on and ones which exude an acceptance of differing points of view and then gang-rape any differing points of view. I find blogs slower-paced than facebook and filling the need perhaps to be the king of ones own kingdom of opinion. There’s also ego involved too I’m sure.

    Maybe, if the bloggers = angry white guys, facebook = upwardly mobile females is true it could be that facebook allows for more creativity and expression AND it’s fluid, can change quickly and be similarly responsive. Blogs on the otherhand generally requires a visitor to stay within bounds of conversation, issues etc. and restricts the type of freedom of expression that facebook offers.

    Blair’s comment re: facebook being a community of a closed circle of people you trust, I’m not so sure about. I don’t trust it BECAUSE it’s so popular and am suspicious of too many people who want to be my “friend”. I’m female and comfortable in discussion on blogs that steer clear of the personal and fluffy…but then I’m still a huge supporter of real-time face-to-face discussion over any of the social mediums new technology offers. In the end my whole communication package includes pulling it all together and being able to see first hand who I’m in discussion with, what they look like, their mannerisms, body language, and how they look back at me. Yeah, I’m old.

  15. Tim says:

    What if I do both? Obsessively read blogs AND keep a pretty active Facebook page. Am I digitally transgendered?

    I read recently that Christina Hendricks from Mad Men would never date a guy with a Facebook profile (she didn’t say anything about bloggers), so I’m now wondering if I should man up and ditch it.

  16. Bobbi says:

    As a woman, I read blogs a lot, but find Facebook a wee bit annoying, only because I have a streak of ‘none of your darn business’ running through me. I like the utilitarian nature of Facebook, but could just as easily do the same sorts of things through email. I do like the phone, so I divide how I use the web, utitlitarian things, “Don’t forget you’re bringing orange slices to soccer,” makes it on email. Connecting, catching up with anything personal, the phone, or the playground, or the coffee shop down the street.

    One thing I did not expect on FB: being friended by my daughter’s friends (12 year olds). Lovely at first, but they use the chat function (A LOT), and I end up feeling stalked if I am on the site after school and before lights out.

Leave a Reply to bigcitylib Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*