It's my first tweet. I should make it count. Create an impact. But about what? My mind conveniently empties itself of every insight it's ever had. But in any case, is anyone really going to be interested in what I have to say? Finally I write it. I delete it. I can't decide. So I re-write it. And re-write it. Willing myself to send it, my finger hovers above the button. And on it lingers. Finally, Tweet sent. I've done it.
Eighteen months on and Twitter is an integral part of my world. It's my first point of call for everything. My Twitter network constitutes my 'circle of trust' -- advising me on the latest news, the best restaurants, best apps and being in the know that Gary Barlow from X-Factor is now 'trending.' Most importantly, Twitter has helped me turn an idea scribbled on a napkin into a real thriving business.
But beyond the utilitarian role that Twitter plays in my life, as it does for a lot of other women, Twitter provides a place for me to share my emotions. An uncensored, unedited space for me to say anything I want to. Well, almost anything. I don't feel any of the constrictions of having to say the right thing, to behave in the right way, or to pander to male egos. In short, it's a liberating experience.
I am not alone. Women are moving towards social media in their droves. Women make up 55% of the Twitter population (Harvard Business Review 2009) that sends one billion tweets per week (Twitter 2011). The fastest growing segment on Facebook is women over 55 (Inside Facebook 2009). Women of every age are spending increasingly more and more time than men on social media sites (comScore 2010).
Social networks give women a voice. A voice that many struggled to get heard before the Internet. A place to meet other women like them. As one woman told me, "When I had my first baby, I felt so alone. Twitter was a lifeline. It was my only connection to the 'real' world." Twitter is giving women confidence. Women from all backgrounds. And despite companies thinking that women are only talking about shoes and babies, social networks are giving female entrepreneurs a place to nurture and grow their ideas and businesses.
And whilst social networks are still the privilege of the 'middle class' with half of Twitter and Facebook users making over $50,000 per year (Digital Surgeons 2010), there is an exciting future before us, as smart-phones become more affordable lending a voice and empowerment to the next billion women onto Twitter and social networks. Twitter will not just be place to get your ideas heard but will become a vital tool of expression for those women who struggle to get their voices heard.
However its not all rosy, social networks are not quite the egalitarian place they appear. When you dig a bit deeper into the statistics, men on average have 15% more followers. The average man is almost twice as likely to follow another man than a woman. Meanwhile, the average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman. (Harvard Business Review 2009)
One explanation is given by a study which showed that women simply make far fewer self-promotional posts, and therefore garner less followers, but it may also be the case that the Twitter community is simply mirroring reality, with male figures of authority (from celebrities to politicians and scientists) firmly ensconced back on that familiar vantage point from which they can both scrutinize and be looked up to.
Not to be outdone, women are leveling the playing field and setting records. The record for the most tweeted sporting event isn't held by the Super Bowl or a match from the Men's World Cup. Instead, the Women's World Cup win for Japan over the USA, with 7,196 tweets per second (Twitter 2011), comes out victorious.
@belindaparmar is the founder of @ladygeektv. Please join the Lady Geek's campaign to end the stereotypes in the tech industry and make technology more appealing to women and young girls. http://www.facebook.com/LadyGeekTV
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