Slow Learning for Fast Times
Web 2.0 Wednesdays--Should We Keep It Up?

The Social Media Gender Gap and Some Questions about Learning with Social Media

According to Business Week and a study conducted by Rapleaf, the growth of social media (most notably social networks like Facebook) is being driven by women. Some key quotes:

Among twentysomethings, women and men are just as likely to be members of social networks. Facebook, MySpace, and Flixster are extraordinarily popular. But we found that young women are much more active on these sites than young men. And men above 30—especially married men—aren't even joining social networks. With the notable exceptions of LinkedIn users and venture capitalists in the Bay Area "friending" everyone on Facebook, married men are not hanging out on social networks. Married women, however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between ages 35 and 50 are the fastest-growing segment, especially on MySpace. . . .

. . . men generally tend to look at things in a more transactional way than women. That's why married men dominate LinkedIn, the most transactional mainstream social network. LinkedIn is all about gathering intelligence and making introductions. We expect men to keep gravitating to transactional sites, such as those that make gaining access to news, sports, and financial information easier . . .

Women's behavior online, on the other hand, is less transactional and more relationship-driven. They spend more time on social networks building relationships, communicating with friends, and making new friends. Married women use social networks to share pictures and treat their network profiles as family home pages to share with friends and relatives.

Is this a gender gap that only impacts the social networking space or will it have impacts on how we use social media for learning? A few thoughts that lead to more questions than answers. 

First, this research appears to be directed at one aspect of social media--social networking sites. Are there differences in how women and men use other kinds of social media, like blogs, wikis, microblogs, etc.? If so, what are those differences?

Another thought--currently, we treat learning as a transaction, rather than as an outgrowth of the relationships we've formed. Transactions are easier to measure, although I question whether or not their ease of measurement (relatively speaking) translates into "more effective." At any rate, when learning is a transaction, then does this mean we end up using social media in a way that's more conducive to men's strategies?  In essence, do we create learning environments that are more "attractive" on some level to men?

On the other side of the equation, if women see social media as primarily for relationship-building, then does this impact their ability to use it for learning, particularly when learning is treated more transactionally in most organizations? Or does this put them in a stronger learning position because "all learning is social"? 

Maybe you can't really extrapolate anything from this research, but I do think it raises some interesting questions. What are your thoughts?

Comments

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There is some parallels in using online support groups for people with a variety of healthcare problems (cancer, mental health issues, etc.). It seems like there is a greater need for an online coach or cheerleader to encourage male participation.


>>. . . men generally tend to look at things in a more transactional way than women. ...intelligence and making introductions.

>>Women's behavior online, on the other hand, is less transactional and more relationship-driven. They spend more time on social networks building relationships, communicating with friends, and making new friends.

Good point, Bill! In general it seems that men regard regard relations as a means to an end, rather than as a source of ongoing support. I wonder if this is biological or cultural? I tend to think the latter.

Kia ora Michele!

Here's some information that suggests that it could well be a matter of brain structure that determines the tendency for women to be more inclined to participate in social media for relationship building. The findings bring several facts into the limelight suggesting that intelligence may be anatomically different in men than in women.

From my interest point of view, it also suggests that intelligence, as we know it may not be limited to the human type. It is also well known that humans are highly adaptive creatures. Who knows? Perhaps men and women have evolved over the ages to adapt to think more like each other. Perhaps, way back, there was more of a noticeable difference in the way men and women behaved as well as how their brains functioned.

Ka kite

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