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Girls are more preoccupied with photo comments than boys April 29, 2009

Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in PhD Data, Photos, Social network sites, Youth.

As regular readers of this blog might know I have a huge body of data in my PhD project. Among the data are 2400 answers to an open-ended questionnaire dealing with the experiences of youth on social network sites. At the moment I am looking at some of the questions that I have not explored so far. (I am using the research software NVivo to code the data along with using SurveyXact for cross tabulation.)

One of the questions deals with how young people feel about the comments they receive on the photos they upload on social network sites . The respondents (12-18 year-old SNS-users) were asked to provide an example of the most recent comment they had gotten on one of their pictures (which is normally a picture of themselves – and the comments most often say that the person looks lovely, hot, beautiful etc. ). As a follow up question the respondents should state who the comment came from (their boy- or girlfriend, their best friend, another friend/acquaintance or someone they didn’t know). After that they were asked what they thought of the comment.

As a preliminary finding the respondents’ answers suggest that there are some gendered differences in how the young people experience the photo comments. It seems that girls are taking much more interest in the comments than boys (or perhaps they are just more articulate when it comes to explaining what the comments mean to them). Typical responses from girls are that they really appreciate when someone comments on their looks in a positive or acknowledging manner. Boys, on the other hand, seem to be slightly more indifferent about the comments they get on their looks.

Based on my other empirical data, I would say that both genders seek the acknowledgement they get from having their looks commented on, but the questionnaire data suggest that  girls are more preoccupied with what kind of comments they get and who they come from. In general, it is very important that the comments come from friends and people they know, rather then strangers. This indicates (and confirms my hypothesis) that photo comments are not just about having ones outer looks valued and acknowledged (identity construction), but also about practising and maintaining friendships.

To illustrate my point, here is one of the typical answers from the questionnaire (translated from Danish):

”Ohh baby<333 you are so beautiful :’D<33 I love you with all of my heart and you are someone really special<333”

[Comment on a picture of a 15 year old girl, who uses Arto and NationX, from a friend].
The 15 year old girl writes:

”I was really pleased and a little bit flattered, because it was a picture of myself 😉 … It is nice when people write these kind of things to you – it means almost as much as if they would say it to you directly.”