Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHello. In this video we'll explore the impact that social media has had on gender relations. For social scientists, gender does not necessarily mean a biological distinction created in nature. We recognise that in practise it could be socially constructed, and it could mean different things for different people. Let's explore this concept a bit further with my colleagues here. Hello. Hello. Hi. I think social media is hardly the first technology that could have created any impact on gender. For example, think about washing machines. Right. But then, I know social media has actually reinforced the concept of gender in certain areas, but then it could have also challenged, or changed, or transformed the notions of gender in a few other areas.

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 secondsFor example, let's take my field site as our first example. My field site is in South India. So normally this area is very highly traditional and it has very specific gender defined roles that's expected of people. This is also seen in the posts that they do online as well. For example, women tend to be a lot more modest in their postings, and they're very clearly visible in their clothing. While men tend to enjoy a lot more freedom that's expected of them, again, in the offline world as well. But then, men also, sometimes they post memes which actually would very clearly specify and define an ideal womanhood. But then I don't think just true of my field side alone.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 secondsWhat do you think? Actually the situation is pretty similar in South East Turkey. For example, in my field site some women are cautious about showing part of their body such as neck or arms, online even more than offline. And similarly, men appear more professionally successful, more popular online than offline. And this mainly happens because people know that their Facebook wall is seen by friends, relatives, and their family's friends. Yeah, I mean, I think the what that shows is that social media is changing things, because I think it's often making gender stereotypes even clearer, even more explicit. When I'm looking at my English village site, I mean I go through these thousands of visual images on Facebook.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 secondsAnd I was kind of surprised how often adult women find some way of associating themselves with wine. Not any particular kind of wine, it's just wine. And the equivalent is you find men doing the same with beer. Then in Trinidad this sort of gender stereotypes goes even further because it intersects a lot with class and ethnicity. So for example, you get Afro-Trinidadian men, and they'll post images around the US hip hop, gangster image. So, lots of sunglasses, and low slung jeans, and bling, that sort of thing. Whereas Indo-Trinidadian men, they might play with this image but they do tend to post more around their vocational or professional image.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 secondsI think so far, we've kind of reached the consensus that on public social media people tend to post in accordance with the traditional gender roles. However, I think the male factory workers in my field site, the industrial China field site, could be an exception. But let me explain, because basically people work all day in factories. So life is really difficult and I would say miserable. But on the other hand, as a man you're not supposed to be like, oh, I'm suffering. To be a real man, you have nothing to do with being sweet, or romantic, or sensitive.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 secondsSo here on social media you see that people kind of use social media to be what they cannot be in day to day life. Online you see people post and share images and articles talking about romantic love, or those delicate softer feelings about relationships. So this is the men who are doing this now. Exactly. So it used to be only young women's privilege. But now, as you can see, social media actually gives people more freedom. It lets them more openly and freely express themselves. I think the Brazil field site in this case goes very well together with China on this regard.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 secondsBecause if we think about gender more broadly and include, for instance sexuality, and we look at how public Facebook is used to expose people, you'll see that gay relationships are becoming more visible. That's pretty important, but I don't think we can assume though that, even though gay relationships are more visible that necessarily any sort of gender norm or gender stereotype has been changed or challenged in any way. Well this was extremely interesting because we have pretty good and very clear examples of how social media has actually reinforced gender relations in certain field sites, as well as like it's actually challenged, or changed, or even transformed gender relations in a few others.

Skip to 4 minutes and 49 secondsBut then think about this, prior to social media when people went on to the internet they were able to get there anonymously, and then you could actually be of one gender and you could post as though you belonged to another agenda. And it was a time when people could actually explore the alternate of masculinity and femininity. But then with social media you have your network of friends, relatives, and other people that you know. It looks like people are always wanting to get their respect, approval, and admiration. And because of this high visibility now what happens is that there's a lot of conformity, and people tend to be a lot more careful about their postings Well, many thanks for joining us.

Social media and gender - a global comparison

In this video we broaden out our discussion of social media and gender to include some of our other fieldsites.

As you look through your own social media can you spot other examples of gender being defined through contrasting associations, such as the one suggested in this video for English males associating with beer while females associate with wine? More generally, do online postings seem more conservative or less conservative than offline representations of gender?

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Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

UCL (University College London)

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