Our lives are full of media. Most information comes from the Internet, and social media is the main way people talk to each other. In 2016, more than half of the people living in Europe used social media. In Iceland, 94% of adults used social networks in 2020. These numbers show where social media stands in the real world, and they also show the differences between men and women in the digital world (Statista, 2021). But are these two worlds that different from each other? Do they fit together or do they not?
Brook Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University, said, “The social media age is often talked about as a meritocracy, where the “best” content gets rewarded with quantifiable status indicators like likes, follows, and favorites. But the truth is that women’s voices don’t get as much attention, whether they are in politics, sports, journalism, or academia (Smith, 2019). The way ideas and beliefs are spread through social media affects the way we think! In the same way, there is social inequality in the digital world, which is sometimes made worse by gender bias.
Gender discrimination is caused by many things, like how men and women are shown in the media. Through ads and photos, the media reinforces gender roles and behaviors. For example, women’s roles range from caring for children to working, which shows how dependent women are. On the other hand, men are shown as more independent and less likely to show their emotions. So, even though the digital world gives us the chance to show who we are through our e-identity, in reality, digital settings just make us repeat the gender norms and culture of the real world (Rose, et. al., 2012).
Also, social media and stereotypes about women’s bodies affect how people see them. The mass media show specific role models and pictures of beautiful women. A national survey by the Pew Research Center found that young women (18–29 years old) in the US are more likely than men to have at least one social media account (Perloff, 2014). As a result, they are likely to internalize an online standard of beauty for women that is based on cultural stereotypes, and their well-being would be affected by the digital gender display. Even though plus-size women are getting more attention, thanks in part to hashtags like #loveyourselffirst and #plussize, cultural stereotypes about how a body should look are still the norm. And, of course, these results are linked to the fact that women are more likely to be harassed online, where they are harshly criticized for their looks and their posts, which happens partly because of gender stereotypes.
Also, social media created a “new economy” called “social media entrepreneurship.” Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and other online platforms are growing, and influencers, who are mostly women, are making money by making videos, getting sponsorships, etc. “Online Market Place Is Perfect for Women in Business,” said Krisman in 2015. (as mentioned in Duffy, et. al., 2012, p.2). In 2020, a survey of 1600 influencers from more than 40 countries showed that male influencers made more money per post than female influencers (1411$ vs. 1315$) and had a wider range of brands that sponsored them than women did (Garlick, 2020).
Social media, on the other hand, makes it harder for women to be independent and start their own businesses. This is because media is used differently for men and women. The COVID-19 “Stay Home. Save Lives” campaign’s “Stay Home. Save Lives” social media ad is an example of gender bias. In this picture, the woman was taking care of the house and the kids while the man sat on the couch with his family (Topping, 2021).
At this point, it’s important to note that gender stereotypes also affect the careers of women in management positions on the job market, with only 29% of women in senior management positions around the world (IBR, 2020, as mentioned in Tabassum, et. al., 2021).
In order to succeed online, women have to do more work and take more risks. This is because the business world is dominated by men and cultural ideas about how women should present themselves (Duffy, et. al., 2012). Everyday life shows that women are more sensitive than men and can’t handle the pressure of a managerial position. Mothers take more breaks and work less hours than men because they are responsible for their children. So, in order to get into these management positions, women have to “fit in” with the way men work. But this takes a lot of time and hard work, so women don’t always succeed in their careers, or at least it’s not easy for them to do so.
So, it’s safe to say, and unfortunately true, that social media is the battlefield of the next generation. In the digital age, young people need to be aware of social pressure and adopt values that will help them build their resilience and make good decisions. In conclusion, discrimination based on gender and stereotypes still exist because they are a big part of our culture and tell us what to do and how to act in the world, whether it’s online or not. They also affect our health. But is there anything we can all do to change it and welcome a digital world without gender?