A new study has researched Facebook posts and concluded that women speak more assertively than men on the popular social networking site.
Most men with any experience of the fairer sex would agree with Rudyard Kipling’s famous line, “That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.” Just as famously, Shakespeare DIDN”T Say, (it was William Congreve), “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”, usually paraphrased as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. If these literary giants have been proposing these theories since the seventeenth century, surely this new study’s finding shouldn’t be shocking news to any of us.
The study was conducted by psychologists and computer science researchers from Australian, US and UK Universities. They analyzed the language used in the status updates of over 15,000 users since 2009. They were looking for any differences between behavioral habits online versus real life and their conclusion is that there clearly is some variance. All users agreed to make their data available, so don’t worry, unless you gave permission, they haven’t been trawling through your Facebook history, which I am sure we all have things that would make us cringe now.
This finding runs counter to most traditional psychological studies that have found men, in general, tend to display more dominant and assertive behavior.
Is this a brave new era for the female species? Women are now holding top jobs at Fortune 500 companies, indeed, there may even be a female president, CEO of the United States if you will, by next January. Does this mean that this is an early indication of how things are going? Margaret Kern, a University of Melbourne senior lecturer, and one of the authors of the study, said “It could be a historical shift we are seeing,” and went on to state “Women are in more leadership roles now, and could be using more domineering language accordingly.”
Or, is Facebook behavior an anomaly to wider social interactions? Perhaps women are no more assertive in “off line” situations, but the nature of Facebook provides a unique platform that leads to this increased assertiveness. Most of the exchanges on Facebook are with friends (connections), and it has been shown that power dynamics and less strong among peers. The assertiveness was seen more in posts containing words such as “dance”, “club” and “party” and these topics were discussed more often by women than their male counterparts.
Other more generally accepted norms were also shown to be true. Women also have a tendency to use softer and warmer language, as had been expected.
This is just the beginning for this field of research. As social media continues to become a greater and greater part of all our lives, it is interesting to analyze the behavior that it brings. We have all read about the faceless internet trolls, people hiding behind anonymity and writing hateful bile, when in face-to-face interactions they probably wouldn’t say boo to a goose.
Facebook doesn’t have the anonymity, (unless using a fake account, which is becoming harder due to increased verification tools), but a person’s actions somehow seem less accountable when typed into their device. Twitter is another area ripe for further investigation, as well as other social media behemoths like Instagram. “Each platform creates its own language,” Kern commented, and we await with interest any further findings.