Face It: the Impact of Gender on Social Media Images Essay

Communication Quarterly Vol. 60, No. 5, November–December 2012, pp. 588–607 Face it: The Impact of Gender on Social Media Images Jessica Rose, Susan Mackey-Kallis, Len Shyles, Kelly Barry, Danielle Biagini, Colleen Hart, & Lauren Jack Social websites like Facebook enable users to upload self-created digital images; it is therefore of interest to see how gender is performed in this domain. A panel used a literature review of pictorial features associated with gender traits, and a sample of Facebook pictures to assess gender stereotypes present in Facebook images.

Traits emerging in greater prominence in pictures of males included active, dominant, and independent. Those prominent with female users included attractive and dependent. These …show more content…

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According to role theory, people follow unwritten social and cultural rules and norms as they behave ‘‘in ways that are different and predictable depending on their respective social identities and the situations they find themselves in’’ (Biddle, 1986, p. 68). Gender identity and gender roles are a significant part of everyday life and, according to Goffman, are actually constituted through social interaction (1976).

Gender shapes how people make sense of themselves and their social relationships. However, as Wood notes, ‘‘What gender means depends heavily on cultural values and practices; a culture’s definitions of masculinity and femininity shape expectations about how individual men and women should communicate; and how individuals communicate establishes gender that, in turn, influences cultural views’’ (Wood, 2009, p. 20). Gender display, as a continuous communication loop, is defined by society and expressed by individuals as they interact while shaping evolving societal expectations regarding gender. In contemporary media and culture, women’s and men’s social desirability and gender have often been defined in terms of their bodies. For women, this has often involved comparing themselves to and even replicating the ‘‘thin ideal’’ (presented in modern mass media despite the looming specter of anorexia and bulimia), altering their bodies .

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