Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Man, I feel like a woman.

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 12, 2008

I find it fascinating to see how men and women represent themselves on the Internet, in terms of the avatars or images that they use, the way they represent themselves in their “About me” sections, or how they “speak” online.

In 2006, Elizabeth Coverdale, a student at the University of Southern Indiana, wrote a paper called “Cyberculture and Gender Identification in Online Chat Communities”. Her interest lies in the linguistic aspects of online interaction – basically, how men and women talk. She conducted an experiment on Second Life (SL) where although she kept the same ID, she changed her avatar to a male one for a week – albeit a slightly feminine one. As she began interacting with people – both long-time friends and people she was beginning to meet – she found the way she spoke to people changed dramatically.

She writes “I found that my sentences were shorter, more direct and filled with less chat detritus: meta-language like emoticons, laughter, and other emotional responses”. There she highlights one of the key markers differentiating the language that men and women use on the internet: what she labels “chat detritus”. I find this a very useful description: it is those conventions which can be deemed as “excess”.

Women tend to do it a lot – they add smiley faces such as :), 😦 or 😉 more readily than men. They often inject giggles such as “heehee” or “hehe” into paragraphs or at the end of a sentence – they use more words like “lol” or “hugs”, and are tempted to add dozens of little kisses at the end of each conversation. Research conducted in 1994 in Multi-User Domain Communities shows that female-presenting characters used almost three times the amount of emoticons and representations of laughter than their male counterparts. I took a look at my friends’ Facebook pages to see if I could spot these conventions, and I found this little gem:

“Hey Sally,
Iheard about you and Johnny shit I’m so sorry my lovvie but you know what he wasn’t worth it at all. I think you and me should hit [the club] this weekend for a little jam-jam, if you’re feeling up to it? 🙂 Also just wanted to check if you are free for a little dinner tonight? 🙂

I’m making lasagne so if you could bring some wine that would be oss-um. Heeheehee.

Many lovvies and hugs
xxxxxxxxxx” *

I would love to see the male version of this, applying Coverdale’s rule:

“Hey Johnny
Sorry about your chick. I’m heading off to the pub for a pint later, you keen?
Shot for the burger last night, it was lank awesome.

See you at the rugger at five. GO BOKKE!!!!!!
Cheers bra.”

Generally, women seek more acceptance in everyday speech than men do, which is something that Coverdale points out. Women use flippant extras to their speech in order to convey enthusiasm, support and a desire to keep the conversation “buoyant” – something that is translated into their online interactions.

I know I apply a number of these conventions: I love using smiley faces – they make me happy, too. (Ha, I sound like a woman there) And I’m really sensitive to when friends of mine use or don’t use smileys. Although I don’t go as far as using “lovvies” or “whuggles” or other nauseating phrases, I am just a part of this linguistic convention as most other girls I know.

Man, I feel like a woman.

*Any similarities to persons living or dead are not coincidental. That’s because I stole this off your Facebook page.

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