How to microblog in high heels

A geek girl's guide to social media and online engagement

The rise of the Female Web

As featured on Shane Richmond’s blog for Telegraph technology.

I once heard a joke that men are like computers…in order to get their attention you have to turn them on.

While this is crass and fairly nonsensical, it touches on the commonly held position since the dawn of the technological era that women, if anything, are not like computers.

The cultural stereotypes surrounding technology generally stem from the early stages of the internet in which going online was a fairly drawn-out, isolated business. Which is why it attracted the teenage boys and young adult men.

But since the second phase of the internet meant easy access and online sharing, a rising new tech-savvy breed of women are putting their claim on the web. The Female Web is a new concept which proposes that behaviour and current activities on the internet suggest it is becoming more womanised and female centric. Miriam Rayman, in her article for Viewpoint magazine’s Eve-olution issue, says one day the internet will be female-dominated and female-friendly – and it is women pioneering this shift.

Before hoards of you start screaming the ‘f’ word, and brandishing your anti-feminist teeth, let me explain the idea a little further.

Female bloggers are growing in number, and according to Jupiter reaserch new web users are predominantly female, so it is worth looking into whether Web 2.0 really does appeal more to the complex inner workings of the female brain as opposed to its male counterparts, or whether this is just a load of hormone-filled hysteria.

Futurist Marian Salzman says:

“The web – at least the one we have now come to understand and depend on – works best when it is collaborative, connected, instant, open-ended, and social in its activities and functionality – attributes we normally associate with women.”

It is clear social networking taps into something of the female psyche – with sites such as Netmums, CafeMom, iVillage and wowOwow seeing a significant boom. Rayman says women enjoy the positive and empowering vibes they get from such sites, as social places where they can come to share and encourage – which is part of their gender make-up.

“Building a community within a group is a basic instinct of female survival that continues to influence the way females behave,” says Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts say in their book Inside Her Pretty Little Head.

“The Internet is just another way to be social, informed, and connected,” says Cullingham. “It’s conversational, newsy, and allows you to form instant intimacy with people. These are things that women are incredibly good at.”

This is truly Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus stuff. Based on the idea that women are natural talkers, bonders and enjoy convening in large clucking flocks to share stories and advice, and the web being one big community, Rayman suggests technology is developing towards being more female in nature, and women are drawn to the web in one great inter-menstrual cycle culminating in a World Wide Women’s Web.

The web is about communities, women thrive in communities, so – the argument goes – women love the web.

But aren’t we forgetting someone? What about the men who enjoy conversations online, meeting like-minded people and expressing opinions? Aren’t tons of bloggers male? Rayman retorts that women’s blogs don’t climb high up Technorati’s charts because their blogging style means they don’t reach the radar:

“It’s about relationship-building and story-telling, and helping one’s community. Men, on the other hand, have typically gone for link-heavy, signpost-rich posts.”

Influential women blogs such as Gawker Media’s Jezebel and Shiny Media’s DollyMix, along with Adriana Huffington, and Elizabeth Spiers prove the blogsphere has some key women leading the way. But should we conclude that the web has gone completely girly and agree with Rayman that the future lies in companies gearing their online marketing techniques towards a the minds of women?

Though Rayman’s study draws out some interesting observations of the way web 2.0 bares similarities to stock, almost stereotypical, characteristics of women, there is no need just yet to start dismissing the equal number of male surfers online. Indeed, some may argue the web is infact male-centric and geared ideally for arguing and pornography. Clearly there will be areas and activities on the web women are drawn to, but this is also true for attributes of men. And though stereotypes surrounding technology should be challenged, women shouldn’t stamp their claim on the web just yet.

Written by hrwaldram

April 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm

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