First it was magazines, now its social media…

woman social mediaAs many popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are used more actively by females, it raises questions about the psychological effects social media has on women.  It is believed that women have a stronger ‘attachment’ to these social media platforms than men, and it is important to consider the consequences associated with this.

Why women?

Recent studies show that women dominate on almost every major social media platform, with an astonishing 82% of Pinterest users being female. This may come as no surprise, but why is it that females are more active across social media?

In the case of Pinterest, this seems fairly obvious. Pinterest allows women to dive into a stereotypical fantasy world, pinning photographs and blogs of wedding dresses, home décor, fashion and recipes. These areas are strongly and stereotypically associated with women, so it is expected this particular site will have more female users.

But what about the rest of them?  It could be argued that women using social media for messaging services simply adheres to female norms in the real world; it is thought women are generally more conversational and ‘chatty’ with each other as opposed to men. An article from Forbes magazine also suggests female use of digital platforms could originate from traditional print content, primarily magazines. The way women are portrayed in magazines has been an on-going controversy, with some people believing the unrealistic expectations portrayed may damage self-esteem.

Social Media vs. Magazines

Much of the content aimed at women across social media is cliché, like magazines, but is this having a damaging effect on female users? In the case of Pinterest boards, I don’t think so. Women enjoy fantasizing about pretty home décor and fashion styles and I think this is used mainly for inspiration and enjoyment rather than portraying what users don’t have or wish they had. I believe it is the promotion of eating disorders social media allows which is where the real problem lies.

Magazines can be heavily regulated and although there is debate about the weight of models, print content does not actively promote anorexia or eating disorders. Social media allows a degree of unregulated content accessible to users, and this can be seen with the rise of ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo’ threads and boards across social media. These include pictures of extremely thin women, strenuous exercise routines and low-calorie recipes to promote losing weight and in some cases cause or promote eating disorders. In some instances young girls even congratulate each other on eating very little to achieve this ‘ideal’ look. Although banned, these images still come across my news feed regularly and can be very damaging and influential to young people.

So what next?

Regulatory systems do attempt to prevent this, but I think whether or not you believe social media is actually damaging or if regulation should exist is highly subjective. In my opinion, women have been adhering to ‘unrealistic expectations’ since modelling and print media began, and social media is simply making this less regulated and more easily accessible. It is also important not to forget men can have self-esteem issues too; so much of the focus is on young women and girls, it needs to be addressed this may not be a one-sided issue.

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