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Facebook Trends: Women Tend and Men Befriend

Do men and women differ in their Facebook use?

My research has examined how men and women use Facebook and found that they differ in their Facebook use. Men reach out to form new relationships, but women tend to maintain their existing relationships. Specifically, men report that the use Facebook to find dates, job leads, and make new friends. Women, on the other hand, use Facebook to maintain existing relationships – to keep in touch with friends and family by posting status updates, uploading photos, sending private messages and friend requests.

This research also found differences based on personality. Psychologists maintain that people vary on five key dimensions: Openness to New Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. People high in Openness are more willing to try new things, while people low in Openness are unwilling to do so. Those who are high in Conscientiousness are well organized; those who are low are not. People high in Extroversion are outgoing and social while those low in Extroversion are Introverts, preferring less social stimulation. People high in agreeableness place an emphasis on being liked and getting along with people, while those low in Agreeableness do not care about being liked. Finally, people high in Neuroticism are high in emotional reactivity, while those low in Neuroticism are emotionally stable. To see where you, dear reader, fall on the “Big Five”, visit: http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/

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In terms of personality differences, people high in Extroversion were more likely to report posting photos and people high in Conscientiousness were more likely to send private messages.

There were also differences in both personality and gender in Facebook use. For instance, women low in Agreeableness were more likely to report instant messaging use than were women high in Agreeableness. For men, agreeableness did not impact instant messaging use. We thought this might be due to the ability of computer-mediated communication to decrease the salience of communicator qualities. Disagreeable women may have more positive interactions with people over a computer compared to phone or face-to-face. However, this is speculation on our part and we have yet to test this.

Furthermore, we found that men low in Openness were more likely to report playing games on Facebook compared to men high in Openness. For women, there was no difference in Openness for frequency of game playing. This finding made us wonder, what were the high Openness people doing? Perhaps trying newer technologies than Facebook? Research has yet to address this question.

What do you think?

To read the actual article, visit: http://osil.psy.ua.edu/pubs/CHB_MakeNewFriends.pdf

Rosanna Guadagno, Ph.D., is a social psychologist who studies online behavior at the University of Alabama.

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