My Topics

21 March 2013

Girls on Facebook: A Fine Line Between Being Accepted or Judged

Keywords: internet, interview, North America, computer, focus groups, media, peers, social media, young adults, youth communication,

Social network sites offer unique potential for girls to present themselves and express their identity. However, a Journal of Communication Inquiry study reveals that girls are often criticized for the ‘openness’ of their profile. Cool posts and pictures can give girls social status, however, having too many friends, photo’s and information can be considered ‘slutty’.  

Take aways

  • Girls are more likely than boys to be judged for having an open profile, too many friends, provocative photos, and too much posted information.
  • Feelings of being harshly judged may limit girls in their participation on a social network site. 
  • However, at the same time girls feel the pressure to show how attractive, fun, and cool they are in order to get social acceptance and success. 
  • These conflicting feelings show that girls’ self- presentation on social network sites involves complex interplay between social status rewards and the risk of being negatively judged.

Study information

  • The question?

    How do girls feel about self-presentation on social network sites? 

  • Who?

    14 young women between the ages of 18 and 22 (they all used social network sites)

  • Where?

    Ottawa, Canada. 

  • How?

    Six semi-structured interviews and one group discussion with eight girls, were held to explore how girls express their identity online. Privacy, gender differences, and the benefits and risks of interaction on social network sites were discussed as well. In order to examine how the girls interpret other girls’ social network profiles, a fictitious Facebook-profile from a young women was developed. This stereotype profile contained beach photo’s of the fictitious girl in bikini, and photo’s (sometimes provocative) referencing her drinking, partying, and laughing with friends. 

Facts and findings

  • Most girls viewed the fictitious girls’ profile as a stereotype profile, because she was trying (just like everyone else on Facebook) to share only the parts of her life they thought would be well received, such as her social life with her boyfriend and partying behavior. 
  • Some girls stated that the Facebook girl only posted pictures of herself being attractive, which made her superficial according to some. 
  • Capitalization, spelling and grammar errors were interpreted by the girls as an ‘act’ to look cool. 
  • Most girls indicated that girls with open profiles, lots of friends, and much information about themselves are at risk for being called a ‘slut’. 
  • However, most interviewed girls saw the fictitious girl as socially successful, despite her open profile and large amount of online friends. 
  • The girls also stated that boys were far less likely to be criticized for the content on their profile and their degree of ‘openness’ than girls. 
  • Critical note: The researchers only interviewed 14 girls, and the conclusions may not hold for all young women.