Social Networking Sites
Social Networking Sites Reuters

Social networking like Facebook shows that men are from Mars, women are from Venus gender stereotypes exist not only in the physical world, but online, according to a new study.

Women tend to use the sites to compare themselves with others online, whereas men tend to use the sites to look at profiles and search for more friends, concluded a study.

Further, women tend to post face pictures, while men post full body shots, according to a survey published in the December issue of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

In many cases, they try to (as in face-to-face communication) conform to social roles and norms consistent with their gender, Sabrina Eimler, social psychologist at University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, who co-authored the study, wrote in an email.

Psychologists have spent decades cracking into how people represent themselves in person, but the online realm, especially social media, gives the research a new twist.

While the interaction between the production and the reception/perception of behavior offline is well researched, comparably little is known about these processes online, Eimler wrote. Against this background we were especially interested in questions concerning gender differences and how they manifest in (social networking sites).

The all-female research team, led by communications researcher led by Nina Haferkamp, now a communications researcher at Technische Universität Dresden, surveyed 106 social media users on StudiVZ, the German equivalent of Facebook. The group reached out to 500 users, but only 106 respondents had public profiles to observe. The respondents were nearly evenly split between genders.

Coders crunched user profiles into data by counting the number of friends, posts, groups and photos.

In general, men sought out information about others as women sought out personal enjoyment, the researchers concluded.

For future studies, the researchers will extend their approach into business networking sites such as LinkedIn. First results show that men and women indeed differ in their professional self-presentation, Eimler wrote. Also, the identical profile information leads people to see instrumental, stereotypical male traits when the profile owner is male and the other way round.

Eimler, a researcher in social media, herself uses the medium, although cautiously.

As a researcher focusing on social media, you very intensively reflect on your online behavior and explore all the opportunities it gives you, she wrote. This may make you differ from the start from the typical, average user. In some ways you are just an observer. At the same time, you are an active part of this social network consisting of friends, family and colleagues.