If You Want a Woman’s Real Opinion, Check Her Facebook

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Photo: Deborah Jaffe

Yesterday, a group of researchers published a study that analyzed over 10 million Facebook posts to figure out how men and women use language differently on social media. The findings revealed that women used “warmer, gentler words” in their status updates, while men were more likely to “swear, express anger and use argumentative language.” Fancy that!

Women’s posts mostly reflected “compassion and politeness,” while men’s were mainly “hostile and impersonal.” It was more likely for a woman to post about family and social life, while men primarily focused on work and money. Also very telling: Men love using words like freedom, liberty, win, lose, battle, and enemy in relation to competitive activities such as playing video games or shooting guns.

None of this is really all that astounding — mostly it shows that enforced norms of gendered behavior have spilled over into social-media use. However, it was surprising to researchers that despite a pattern of much less aggressive speech, women typically used more assertive language than men. Maybe frequent social-media use has made women more comfortable actually expressing their opinions. But this is surely not news to any woman who has ever had to diplomatically deal with an annoying uncle striking up a political argument in the comments of her most recent selfie.