Quick, what was your last Facebook status?
Was it about winning something or being excited for a family member? Did you post about your job or your relationship?
You might answer those questions very differently depending on your gender.
In a study published recently in the journal PLoS One, researchers used data from over 68,000 Facebook users to explore the difference in what self-identified men and women talk about on the social media platform, and how they talk about it.
Researchers used software programmed to pick out words and categorise them by topic.
That analysis found that men tend to discuss impersonal ideas (like the government) or use language associated with games and war (like “battle,” “enemy,” “lose,” and “win”). They also tend to swear more.
Women, on the other hand, tend to use supportive words like “excited,” “super,” and “wonderful,” as well as words having to do with family, including “sister,” “daughter,” “nephew,” and “brother.”
Despite those differences, an additional analysis found that the language used by men and women was equally assertive.
While the findings are intriguing, the study has several limitations.
First of all, the researchers’ analysis captured tendencies. The findings do not mean all women speak one way, and all men speak another way. There’s plenty of linguistic variability across all genders.
Study participants (average age: 26) also had to download an app and grant it permission to view their status messages, and only users who had posted at least 1,000 words across all their status updates were included. So this is hardly a random cross-section.
And before anyone thinks of extrapolating what researchers observed on Facebook to real life, remember: Most people behave differently online.