The Social Media Gender Divide — Men and Women Disagree on Social Media “Causes”

A new study concerning social causes and social media reveals that the gender divide isn’t getting any smaller. Women and men view the use of social cause social media differently. In some cases, quite differently.

A new study concerning social causes and social media reveals that the gender divide isn’t getting any smaller. Women and men view the use of social cause social media differently.  In some cases, quite differently.

A study released last week by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and paid for by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide asked 2000 Americans through online survey about their views on social causes. Participants were asked about everything from their feelings about particular causes such as politics and hunger to whether or not they felt getting involved with a social cause could make a significant difference.

The survey revealed that four in ten Americans get involved with social and politics groups working towards change. Of this forty percent, both men and women agreed on the major areas they tend to support. Both genders feel that feeding the hungry and supporting troops are key causes they are willing to rally behind. Other causes such as cancer saw a gender divide, but this was indicative of the form of the disease. For example breast cancer attracted more female supports; whereas, prostate cancer attracts more male supporters. Not that that’s a real surprise.

What might be surprising, however, is the way in which the genders differ when it comes to social cause social media. According to the survey, “Two-thirds of women (65%) believe e that social networking sites can increase the visibility for causes, and six in ten (60%) believe they allow people to support causes more easily.” Men, on the other hand, were not as optimistic. 43% of men reported that supporting causes has become a “fad”.  It follows that women reported being more like than their male counterparts to support promotion on social networking sites such as Facebook. The report indicated that 17% of women were likely to post logos or join Facebook groups; whereas, only 12% of men indicated the same inclination.  When asked “I feel like I can help get the word out about a social issue or cause through online networks like Facebook, Twitter and blogs” only 35% of men responded positively.

However, if there was one thing the sexes can agree on it’s that emails about a cause end up feeling like spam and can result in “cause fatigue”. In fact, the chances of this happening are staggering as roughly 73.5 percent of all participants reported feeling like emails felt “spammy”. Both parties also agreed that “liking” a cause on Facebook is about as meaningful as giving a thumbs up to a street performer; 48.5% of all participants reported that “liking” doesn’t really mean anything.

It’s tempting to draw easy stereotypical conclusions from the survey. Women are more “giving”; men more pessimistic. However, these conclusions are far too simple, particularly given the relatively small scope of the survey. Further, they don’t account for content. Is social cause social media gender neutral or is it possible that social cause social media leans towards a more “feminine” sensibility? Or, perhaps, it is more socially acceptable for women to be “moved” by cause based promotions?

Regardless, the survey’s most interesting and persuasive statistics involve the potential negative side effects of social cause social media: burnout. Quantity is not quality and charities need to find innovative and flexible ways to get word out without leaving users feeling overwhelmed.