By Adewale Kupoluyi
It was once argued if women were more active on the social media than men. And to what extent do women engage in the use of this technology? The basis for this interrogation was to ascertain whether either of the gender was more preoccupied with serious-minded activity or not. Although, no consensus was reached, research findings on the subject-matter later provided an illumination into the debate.
I was one of the participants when Titilayo Osuagwu presented a paper titled; “Social Media Use among Female Students of University of PortHarcourt”, during the 4th Annual International Conference in Journalism and Mass Communications that was organised by the Global Science and Technology Forum (GSTF), in faraway Singapore. According to her, most research conducted in the field of social media use had established the fact that the female gender had dominated the platforms, saying little concern was being given to why females were avid users of the social media. This is in addition to the assumption that females were just idling away on social media. Social media platforms referred to in this context include the Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, Tango and Instagram.
Social media has been a product of technological development and access to various platforms for life streaming, which allows users to engage in ongoing and uninterrupted broadcasting of information and events through a set of digital media. The social media arena has come to be seen as females’ territory and dominance. The issue of high social media usage among women is attracting an increasing attention in researches on social media and gender in general, but little or no attention had been given to knowing what women were doing with the social media. This position is against the assumption that women were traditionally idle and that, they may not be productively engaging the social media. That is, it is often assumed that women were just wasting their time on such platforms, even though the production and reception of media are gendered, saying that the News Media, which has social media as a subset, was presently being dominated by women.
Osuagwu stated that research evidence into the reasons why females are attracted to social media, was very scanty and that despite women’s dominance in social media, there were concerns about the negative effects of social media to women because some media have high degree of social presence that makes them very personal. The result of her study corroborates that of the respondents that were surveyed, who had stated that they had high awareness of social media and that, their most preferred social media sites was Facebook. Respondents also disclosed that the basic reason why they use social media was to make new friends and to stay up-to-date in their networking activities including commenting on relatives, friends’ walls and commenting on brands.
It was further revealed that the benefits derivable from using social media cover learning about product brands and stress reduction, adding that the benefits range from learning about product brands, stress reduction, making new friends, keeping in touch with friends. In the research, respondents were asked about their general level of awareness of social media in which majority of the respondents agreed they had high level of awareness of social media and that their preferences ranged from Facebook, Twitter, 2go, MySpace, Netlog, Instagram, Whatsapp, Blackberry Messengers, Skype, Viber and LinkedIn, among others.
The women restated that they had high awareness of social media and their most preferred social media sites were Facebook. As regards the benefits derived from using social media, the respondents stated that the major benefits they derived from social media was learning about products, brands, stress reduction and new ideas. Female students of the university that was used in the study area had high level of awareness of social media while their most prevalent social media site remained the Facebook.
The lecturer revealed that the major reasons why women hooked on the social media had to do with linking up with old friends and staying up-to-date with useful information and their networking activities, including commenting on brands and connecting on friends walls. This finding validates the use and the gratifications theory that was one of the frameworks adopted for the study that shows that, social media audiences have certain media needs to fulfill, which would determine their active media choices. Furthermore, results show that there were benefits attached to using social media and these range from learning about various products, stress reduction, making new friends, keeping in touch with acquaintances and family members. She added that female constitutes the dominant gender on social media use for self-fulfilling purposes that range from staying in touch with people and meaningful events.
For her, this is contrary to the belief or notion that females idle away on social media. Hence, social media have a lot of role to play in females’ lives, the benefits of social media far out weight their demerits while the following recommendations we made. To begin with, females should ensure that they balance their social media lives with the other aspects of their lives. This is to prevent the negative consequences that are associated with excessive exposure to social media. Females should engage in using social media for more productive ventures that advance the course of women. In other words, they should leverage on the gender gap on social media to appeal to people’s emotions for serious gender issues that ranged from gender inequalities and violence against women. Lastly, females should realise that social media holds a lot of benefits for them when properly harnessed. Like their male counterparts, females can use social media for effective outcomes in their business or professional lives and when properly used, social media can truly make women better informed.
Osuagwu’s presentation was certainly interesting and educative. It has highlighted the benefits of the social media and its diverse usage. There is no doubt that this technology has come to stay in our world today. Meanwhile, I think we should now be able to answer the question of, to what extent do our women use the social media. Your guess is surely as good as mine!