The Way Women Act Differently on Facebook vs. Real Life

May 28th 2016

Almie Rose

While many women may struggle with feeling like there's massive gender inequality at work, there's one place where they are not afraid to speak up: Facebook.

A new study shows that women are more assertive on Facebook than men, according to The Washington Post.

The PLOS One findings, conducted by psychologists and computer-science researchers based in the U.K., U.S., and Australia, analyzed the language in the status updates of more than 150,000 Facebook users over a period of two years. They saw "slightly more assertive language" in these updates when they came from women, challenging the idea that men are consistently always more dominant in their language.

The way that women assert themselves on Facebook "[..] is different than how women act in other settings, prior research shows," The Washington Post reports.

But why are women more confident and expressive on Facebook compared to everyday life?

Are women more assertive on Facebook because they feel like they're moving up in the real world in a way that they haven't before? Or is Facebook just an outlet for them to exhibit their assertiveness?

That's something the study couldn't pin down.

"It could be a historical shift we are seeing," Margaret Kern, who co-authored the study, told The Post. "Women are in more leadership roles now, and could be using more domineering language accordingly."

It could also be simple: On Facebook, the majority of people you talk to are your friends, and women feel naturally more comfortable being assertive among their friends than among coworkers, for example.

How are women showing assertiveness on Facebook?

It's not like women are posting multiple status updates that say, "FUCK ALL MEN!" Rather, women show more confidence and dominance in certain topics of discussion. In analyzing the language used, researchers found that when it came to words regarding social activities, women have the upper hand. Such words include "party," "dance," "club," and "wanna."

To quote The Spice Girls, when it comes to Facebook, women will tell you what they want, what they really really want.

One thing is certain — women generally seem afraid to be assertive.

A quick Google search of the phrase "women afraid to be assertive" pulls up an approximate 496,000 results on how and why women shouldn't be afraid to assert themselves.

google assertive women results

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's own Chief Operating Officer, wrote a book titled "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," about women and empowerment.

Facebook, however, declined to comment on the study.

[H/T Washington Post]