I’ve increasingly noticed that men — not women — are some of the biggest oversharers on social media, both in sheer number of vain selfies posted and status updates revealing deep, emotional details about their private lives. Maybe I know a lot of snowflakes, but it all started when a guy I know posted a picture of a giant hunk of earwax he’d recently had irrigated by a doctor.
And he’s not the only one.
Another dude has recounted every single date with his new girlfriend, including details of the sexual chemistry they enjoy with a “cutesy” red-faced emoji. He also details his mental health struggles for us. Daily. And another updates frequently about being a struggling musician and all the feelings he has about never making any money. He’s frustrated at what passes for pop these days because, hint hint, it does not sound like the music he makes.
One guy posts endless photos of his children, detailing their every milestone, and frequently uses the memories share button on Facebook to let us all know how far they’ve come. (You know, just like a mom would). And a bro I know posts easily a dozen photos from every bodybuilding competition he enters, clearly trawling for validation. Another guy posts numerous pictures of his dog, enthusing “Who’s a good boy?!”
Sure, women can be just as annoying — because, never forget, people are annoying, and literally anyone can be a complete bore online — but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that no one gender has the monopoly on Look at me! behavior online. So why do we still think of women as the big-time social media oversharers?
Women, cultural perception tells us, are the reigning oversharers of the world. Put a woman in line at a grocery store with a complete stranger and she’ll have confessed the details of her hysterectomy before checkout. Men, on the other hand, are private and guarded. You can be friends with a man for 30 years before finding out he’s actually a pile of empty paint buckets.
On social media, this perception roughly translates to: Men are from LinkedIn and Reddit, and women are from Facebook and Instagram. In other words, men are off to the internet to discuss politics and snag promotions. Meanwhile, women are busy posting pictures of our pregnancies with reckless abandon, and then posting too many pictures of the resulting spawn. Of course, we post way too many selfies. We brag about our relationships. We even live tweet miscarriages and abortions.
Previous statistics once seemingly confirmed that, if nothing else, this is because women simply dominate the space. In 2014, for example, 71 percentof women were social media users, compared with 61 percent of men, according to a report from Razor Edge Media. Women ruled sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and that pink-hued utopia of home design and wedding planning, Pinterest. Men at the time gravitated toward LinkedIn and YouTube.
The reasons they offered were simple: Women are more social, the report said, using social media for “personal connections,” to stay close to friends and family, and share feelings (they were responsible for 62 percent of Facebook sharing alone). Men, on the other hand, “use social media to gather influence, information, contacts and overall status.”
Early Facebook critiques bore this stereotype out: Women were often the target of those endless listicles about the worst types of Facebook users in existence, usually some mix of the crazy baby lady, drama queen, and a poser type who always lies about her life to make you jealous. Men were shitty online too, but often as a braggart about work or workouts, as a curmudgeon or crazy political guy.
Thinly veiled in these explanations and types, in terms of how we value such uses of time, are gender value judgments. Men use the internet for Very Important Business. Women use it to, like, share feelings and stuff.
But something funny happened in 2015: Men caught up with women in their social media usage, according to Pew Research. Now 73 percent of men say they’re on social media, compared with 80 percent of women, a difference Pew notes is no longer statistically significant.
There are still some differences in the sites people frequent by gender — Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are still lady lands. More men are still trolling Reddit deep into the night. LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter, though, are now equally visited by men and women.
Still, the Pew Research highlights, while men and women are on social networking platforms, men’s site preferences are bracketed out specifically into “online discussion forums” as opposed to the heavily visual mediums of Pinterest and Instagram.
Yet, in spite of what these sites are typically used for, it doesn’t mean that’s how everyone is using them. Networking happens on Twitter and Facebook alongside heated discussions of politics, parenting and neighborhoods. Some online forums (subreddits) geared specifically towards men are pretty emotional spaces. And men are lurking on Instagram to scope out their datesjust as women are.
Online harassment aside, it’s not that there aren’t some gendered differences in how we communicate online. Last year, the journal PLoS One studied68,000 Facebook users to see what they could suss out. Software combed status updates, looked for patterns and then categorized them via topic.
They found that men and women were both assertive online, but their use of language was notably different. Women were consistently warmer, more compassionate and more polite. They were much more likely to use words such as:
Men were colder, more impersonal and more hostile. They cursed more, and their language was more gamified — win, lose, battle and enemy came up a lot. They were much more likely to use words such as:
Women’s posts had more “emotion,” according to researchers, but it’s worth noting that when men argue online about politics (while playing Xbox) they express emotions, too. They’re just of the anger, bewilderment, frustration, arrogance, and contempt variety.
A few caveats: The participants in the study were on average, only 26. In my feed, men tend to start oversharing obliviously at around 30, the same time they begin having some pretty humanizing experiences on earth: becoming a husband, having a child or getting a dog, getting a divorce, losing or getting a very important job, etc.
Even if that humanizing experience is just, at long last, going to the doctor to get that earwax buildup looked at. But hey, that’s what social networks are here for, right? Dudes, welcome to the oversharing dark side.