What people do on Facebook varies by gender, at least among college students and recent graduates, a new study finds.
Both groups share content and communicate about it, but young women focus on friends and family, while young men address pop culture, news and current events.
While many of the recent news stories about this study suggest that the gender patterns apply to all age groups, no such thing appears anywhere in the findings posted online by Professor S. Craig Watkins of the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Radio, Television and Film.
Apparently the mainstream press might not have noticed where the report first appeared, on a blog called TheYoungAndTheDigital.com.
This study co-authored with PhD candidate H. Erin Lee has a very specific focus that got buried in a lot of the press reports:
We focus on a key period in many young people’s lives: the transition from college to the paid workforce. In that relatively short window of time a number of life changing decisions are on the horizon: career, where to live, and starting a family just to name a few.
That gives an important context to these findings, and makes me wonder whether these gender patterns apply to people over, say, age 25.
When I was the same age as the people targeted in the study, my communications habits conformed to the pattern typical of my gender — except that during the late 80s and early 90s, we were doing this mostly offline and a limited amount of email. But now the way I communicate on Facebook is proably a mix of both gender patterns identified by the researchers.
Who knows whether the way I use Facebook is typical for my age and gender? No one can know without further study. And that’s what I’m calling out here: Research focused on a specific age group probably doesn’t provide conclusive evidence about people of all ages.
That ought not minimize the coolness of these study’s findings. They certainly give marketers a goldmine of information on how to appeal to young people. I’d just like to see research on what the rest of the Facebook community is doing.
Readers, do you think that Facebook usage varies by gender for all age groups? What’s your reaction to the study findings described here?