Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Social media motivation and gender

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Social media motivation and gender:
How do males and females differ in their motivations to use social media?

Overview[edit | edit source]

What is social media? Why are genders motivated to use such networking platforms to different extents? This book chapter will discuss two psychological theories to help explain the relation between genders motivation to engage with social media platforms. These two theories are self-determination theory and social role theory. However, firstly we must define motivation! According to Dermer (1975) motivation is the reason an individual embraces a particular behavior or completes a particular act. Intrinsic motivation can be referred to as the internal psychological motivation of an individual, while extrinsic motivation is the external motivation presented to the individual to trigger their intrinsic motivation. Examples of extrinsic motivation can include money, grades, verbal praise and prizes (Cerasoli, Nicklin & Ford, 2014). So what is all the hype about social media?

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the rise of the Internet and in turn, social media platforms have become an every day part of individuals’ lifestyle across western nations (Asur & Huberman, 2012). The motivation to use such social platforms stems from social pressure and a feeling of connected-ness and imminent social relationships (Wei & Ven-Hwei, 2006) [grammar?] We[who?] will go on to explain the different types of social media and the reasons why individuals might use such platforms later on in the chapter.

Case Study[edit | edit source]

A male named Dave and a female named Belle both attend school and engage with multiple social media platforms. Both Dick and Belle are 17 years of age and have Facebook profiles, Twitter profiles, Snapchat accounts, SoundCloud accounts to edit their favourite music playlists which are displayed via Facebook, as well as Instagram to post their latest social photos. Belle is an outgoing socialite who is on her phone more than fifteen times a day checking all her social media platforms. Furthermore, she uploads at least one status on Facebook or Twitter, at least three Snapchats and approximately one photo on Instagram daily. Although Belle and Dave share the same friendships circle, Dave checks Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter significantly less. He may only post on Facebook and/or Twitter once a week, take one to two Snapchats over the weekend and upload a photo on Instagram once every two months. Why might Belle and Dave differ in their engagement with social media platforms?

Once you have read this book chapter, take a look at the quiz at the end and you may know the answer!

Understanding motivation[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. This street artist is engaging in intrinsic motivation

The motivation to use social media, to engage in conversation, to eat and to exercise occurs without thought for many individuals in Western nations every day. The idea of motivation has been heavily studied in psychology and has been broadly split into three main types; Intrinsic motivation, Amotivation and extrinsic motivation[factual?].

Intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Intrinsic motivations include those that are energetic, those that are encouraged by purpose or a goal to reach internal satisfaction or a sense of fulfillment (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Two main scholars on intrinsic motivation include Clark Hull and B.F. Skinner. Hull believed that intrinsically motivated behaviour was created for satisfaction purposes, so he created Drive theory. Hull's drive theory suggested that motivation could be predicted before it commenced, as energy sources were composed of bodily disturbances, such as the primary needs of food, water, sleep (Hull, 1943). This prediction of when motivation is to occur is driven by energy for such a behaviour, not the direction of a behaviour. Therefore, the internal energy to stimulate behaviour is intrinsically motivated. A second theorist of intrinsic motivation is B.F. Skinner. Skinner defined intrinsic motivation as the internal interest in a task (Skinner, 1953). This suggested that intrinsically motivated actions are completed for the satisfaction of engaging in the task, not necessarily the completion of the task. For example, one might run for the enjoyment of running, not necessarily for completing the task of a run. Both Skinner and Hull examine intrinsic motivation in depth, and so a definition of this form of motivation has risen from Ryan and Deci (2000), to define intrinsic motivation as motivations that are fulfilled for self-satisfaction/achievement.

Extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Extrinsic motivations include those that are environmental, overt and typically involve a reward. According to Reeve (2009), an example of extrinsic motivation could be the reason a coach teaches sport at a school; because he/she is getting paid. The reward of money is an extrinsic motivation. Other forms of extrinsic motivation include food, trophies, prizes and public recognition. A key theorist in the progression of extrinsic motivations was G. Stanley Hall, an American psychologist and the first president of the American Psychological Association (APA). In 1972, Hall conducted an experiment with a child lacking intrinsic motivation to wear his orthodontic head gear. Hall used extrinsic motivation with rewards of verbal praise and a token of money (25cents) when he wore his orthodontic gear (Hall, Axelrod, Tyler, Grief, Jones & Robertson, 1972). After two weeks the experiment results showed that it was highly successful as the boy wore his orthodontic gear 97% of the time (Hall et al. 1972). Another example to help understand extrinsic motivation is derived from American psychologist,Mark Lepper. In Lepper’s experiment, preschool children were split into three groups and given the activity of drawing a picture. The three groups consisted of either an unexpected reward, no reward or an expected reward which the children were told about before the activity commenced (Lepper, Greene & Nisbett, 1973). After a week went past, the same activity was given to the children and they were once again split into the same three groups. However, results indicate that the second time the children completed the activity, those children in the expected reward group finished their drawings much faster than any of the other children. Therefore, those children in the expected reward groups intrinsic motivation declined significantly (Lepper, Greene & Nisbett, 1973). As we[who?] can see from both Hall and Leppers experiments, quite often extrinsic motivation can over-ride intrinsic motivation through the use of rewards. Now that we have defined both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation it will be easier to understand both males and females motivation to engage with social media platforms.

Amotivation[edit | edit source]

The last broad type of motivation is Amotivation and can be defined as basically a complete lack of motivation. For example, a student may find they lack both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and in turn are not successful at regular life milestones such as finishing school, seeking and maintaining a long-term partner to marry, a job and so career aspirations (Jung, 2013). Amotivation is studied to a lesser extent than intrinsic or extrinsic motivation by psychologists.

Social media[edit | edit source]

Most popular social media platforms[edit | edit source]

Table 1

Most popular westernized social media platforms

Type of platform Name Function
Business LinkedIn A business-orientated networking site launched in 2003 for business professionals to represent themselves or their workplace in an online profile.
News Twitter A social networking site which allows users to share information in a status of a maximum of 140 characters. Twitter is also a fast and convenient way of getting updated on current news by following news stations to see their status'.
Social networking Facebook Facebook is the most general social networking site for individuals to post about their lives to friends and family. The platform allows users to post photos and videos, like posts by others, write status', share links and more.
Individual Photography Instagram Another main source of social networking is through Instagram which allows users to share their personal photos on an online profile. A main feature of Instagram is the ability to like other users images and comment on their images. Instagram, as with Twitter employees the ability to enable followers and follow other users profiles.
Professional Photography Pinterest A fun social media site which allows users to create a profile and categorical boards to which they pin others professional photos or their own photos. Pinterest has become an inspiring page for wedding planning and DIY arts and crafts.
Video/image communication Snapchat A photo and video messaging application which was formally launched in 2012 by two Stanford University students. The application allows friends to send and receive a video/photo with a caption for up to 10 seconds before it disappears. snapchat users all have a profile name which can be searched or they can add their friends on snapchat via their phone numbers.
Video YouTube A very well known online video-sharing website founded by three former PayPal employees. The site allows individuals to upload their own videos in an effort to start a video blog. They can also upload educational seminars. Youtube is a primary source when finding a video clip for a new release song or to view short television clips.
Free call/text communication Viber This social media platform is great for overseas communication with friends or family. The app provides free calls, texts, and picture sharing when the user is in a wifi area.
Free video communication Skype Skype is a main social media platform used by travelers or business people. Skype allows individuals to video call/conference call with anyone around the world in a wifi zone! The application is primarily used on computers but can be used for audio calls on phones.
Music SoundCloud SoundCloud is an online music platform based in Berlin. The website allows users to upload their own music or listen to the music of well known artists. A benefit of SoundCloud is the ability to stream a song once and then have free access to that song after!
Relationships Tinder An online app which uses individuals phone GPS to track other users close by. The app is used primarily to find a partner with similar interests to the user.

Note. sourced from "Top 15 most popular social networking sites." by eBiz, MBA Rank, 2014. Retrieved from

What is social media?[edit | edit source]

The social media revolution has created a world in which it is almost impossible to live without technology. According to Wylie (2014), social media can be defined as the information and ideas platform of the modern world, creating virtual communities and online networks. These networks give individuals a sense of connection as they embrace platforms such as Twitter on which global news is shared or on SoundCloud, which enables individuals to search new music and share their own. However, there are disadvantages of social media platforms. From the extremities of cyber warfare to the standards of professionalism in business, it has its dangers. To expand, as networking platforms give individuals the ability to share their thoughts and opinions immediately, it is almost impossible to completely monitor all information being shared. This refers particularly to the national security problem of monitoring extremist groups advertising and discussing their opinions online (Wylie, 2014). On a lighter note, another disadvantage can simply be failure to protect corporate confidentiality (Null, 2013). For example, if a companies social media employee tweet’s directly after a board meeting about the amount of growth the business has made financially in the past year, this would be breaching the confidentiality contract and would most likely result in them being fired. So why do individuals engage in social media on a day-to-day basis?

Motives to use social media platforms[edit | edit source]

Friends & relatives[edit | edit source]

The first and most easily understood motive to use social media platforms is to keep in touch with friends and family. Facebook and Skype are primary tools to keep in touch with friends/family when on holidays or if they have moved away from home.

Relationships[edit | edit source]

Many individuals in this day and age embrace social media as a way to find a new love. Aside from many online dating websites, the use of mobile applications like Tinder are heavily relied upon to meet new people of the opposite sex which may be potential partners.

News connection[edit | edit source]

Twitter is a primary source of quick news access. Many busy individuals embrace twitter as a way of being informed of major news headlines through Twitter posts by news companies.

Virtual communities[edit | edit source]

Virtual communities can include chat rooms, groups on Facebook, Instagram communities and more. Often individuals find themselves in group chats on social media platforms with friends, members of a group assignment or a group outside of the working work, for example a group of travelers which are about to meet overseas. Virtual communities often give individuals a sense of belonging.

Business[edit | edit source]

Many Businesses’ engage with social media by having their own corporate profiles on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. The most obvious reason businesses engage with social media is for the purpose of advertisement and marketing. It gives them a free and fun way to promote their products and services while effectively reaching all online audiences. According to Weiguo & Gordon (2014), businesses also use such platforms to enhance business performance and increase profit. Businesses often use competitions on social media to boost their name in followers’ friends lists, but also introduce individuals to the business by giving them a prize for sharing their page, which in the long run can increase their profit.

Entertainment[edit | edit source]

Entertainment is an obvious motive to use social media. SnapChat is often engaged with on an entertaining level as individuals send snaps to friends to make them laugh. Furthermore, many individuals get caught up watching YouTube channels in order to be entertained, whether they are documentaries, music videos or funny video’s, YouTube is definitely one of the big entertainers in the social media platforms.

Identity development[edit | edit source]

Identity development can occur while using social media platforms. According to Khankhunova & Choiropov (2013) experts believe that engagement in social media is one of the best ways to formulate your individual identity. It appears that social media gives individuals the ability to voice opinions, share information and post about likes and dislikes in order to formulate a core identity.

Gender variation in the use of social media[edit | edit source]

How might genders differ in their rate of online engagement? Well there are two primary theories to help develop the understanding of each gender’s motives to engage more or less in social media platforms; Self-determination theory, and Social role theory with reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Diagram demonstrating that motivation is an intricate continuum (Richard & Rochester, 2000)

Self-determination theory is a psychological motivation model created by Edward Deci and Richarch Ryan (2000) to address individuals’ needs to grow and attain self-fulfillment. Despite some aspects of self-determination theory focusing on extrinsic factors, the theory primarily focuses on the intrinsic motives of individuals. The theory states that in order to satisfy the internal self, individuals must achieve the following three elements:

  • Competence: The mastery of skills whether they are new or old
  • Connection or relatedness: Attachment or a sense of belonging to others whether they are friends, family or a sexual partner.
  • Autonomous: People need to attain and control their own beliefs and goals (Deci & Ryan, 1985). This stage would help them to form an strong intrinsic and extrinsic identity.

When referring to the diagram on self-determination theory above, the rate of motivation is organised along a continuum. On the far left we can see Amotivation, which is nonself-determined. Then in the center there is extrinsic motivation split into four different sections ranging from external (left) to internal (right) motivations. On the far rights we can see-determined motivation, which is entirely intrinsic and reaches self-fulfillment/self-satisfaction. A more depth analysis of the four self-determination sections in the middle of the diagram:

  • External Regulation: An individual relies on extrinsic motivators and without such motivators present their motivation falls. For example, if a student has a test coming up, they may not study for the test until the night before, as they is not external motivation to study (Reeve, 2009).
  • Introjected Regulation: An individual is not motivated by other people’s demands of them. They are perhaps only motivated out of guilt (Reeve, 2009). For example, this form of regulation understood as a person only feeling encouraged/motivated to complete a task when another individual gives them verbal praise, not when they are asked to do the task at hand. For a more in depth example, when a student is told by their parent to do their assignment they will not be encouraged to start or complete the assignment. However, when the student is told that they are intelligent and they they will do so well on the assignment if they put their mind to it, then the student is likely to begin the task at hand.
  • Identified Regulation: This form of regulation is an intrinsic motivation, which may only serve the beliefs of the individual. For example, when an athlete trains more so than other athletes, this is because of their intrinsic motivation which forms the belief that they will perform better with extra training (Reeve, 2009). Often an individual does not need to be asked to start or complete a task if they are engaging in this type of regulation already.
  • Integrated Regulation: The final element of the four mini self-determination theory sections is integrated regulation, which is the internal process of transforming an individuals beliefs or behaviors into the self (Ryan & Deci, 2000). For example, maintaining the believe that recycling is good for the environment, so extrinsically ensuring you recycle all your rubbish (Reeve, 2009).

How does self-determination theory relate to gender’s use of social media?[edit | edit source]

So why does self-determination theory relate to males and females use of social media. Prior and Miller (2014) conducted research in the area of social media, self-determination and gender roles and found that the ability to make friends online, add already made friends and publicize friendships online is of major importance to adolescent males and females. Through the element of connection/relatedness, adolescence use intrinsic motivation via social media to gain such attachment or sense of belonging through acquaintance to friends/friendship groups online (Prior & Miller, 2014). We may see this in examples of friends conversing in a group chat scenario on facebook about plans for the weekend. Furthermore, research indicates that friendships on social media also satisfy the self-determination need of competence; the mastery of friendship online and having a sufficient amount of friends (Donath & Boyd, 2004). Often this need of competence can be seen when adolescent teens share or boast about the amount of followers/friends they have on social media platforms. So at what point do sexes vary in their engagement with self-determination theory online? Well, a study conducted by Standage, Joan & Nicos (2005) on the variance between females and males self-determination needs, it was found that females require more connection/relatedness and introjected regulation. We can see this through analysing the use of these needs online where females call for the connection to friends and partners more so online than males[factual?]. An example of such requirements can be the seen through perhaps a higher rate of recognition via posts about/to their partners or friends[factual?]. According to Reeve (2009)’s definition of introjected regulation, females post more frequently when friends encourage them[factual?]. For example, the female may post a status on Facebook as she knows she will receive external motivation to confirm her beliefs when friends comment and agree with her on her status post[factual?].

Social Role Theory[edit | edit source]

Social role theory was developed in an effort to understand differences between males and females with regards to social behavior in person, yet it can also be applied to the social roles of individuals online (Eckes & Trautner, 2000). Some of the classic social role theorists include; George Herbert Mead, Georg Simmel, Jacob Moreno and Ralph Linton (Eckes & Trautner, 2000)[grammar?]

According to Eckes and Trautner (2000), social role theory addresses the misconceptions in societal beliefs on the differences between men and women’s societal roles as the theory analyses the sexual division of labor and gender hierarchy. Furthermore, the theory also touches on elements of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which consist of the following:

  • Self-actualization: (The top of the hierarchy, the last need required to reach self-actualization) Self-actualization includes morality, spontaneity, creativity, problem solving and more.
  • Esteem: The completion of attaining a positive level of self-esteem, confidence and achievement within oneself.
  • Social Needs: Relationships with friends, family and loved ones.
  • Safety and Security: The basic safety within the home and security within the home and with family.
  • Physiological needs: (The bottom of the hierarchy of needs, the most basic need to all humans) The major physiological need is to survive with adequate water, food, sleep and shelter.

(Robert & Gao, 2013).

Some elements of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are touched on by social role theory, as males and females differ in their timing to achieve such needs (Eckes & Trautner, 2000). This can be understood specifically as females mature faster, biologically. According to Charles Darwin (an evolutionary theorist), females typically choose males in the human mating process, suggesting that females reach the social needs stage of Maslows hierarchy earlier than males, whom are still lingering in the safety and security stage (Eagly, 1997). Therefore, females mature faster than males and in turn reach the stages of Maslows hierarchy of needs at different times[factual?].

How does social role theory relate to gender’s use of social media?[edit | edit source]

Now that we have examined the social role theory with reference to Maslows hierarchy of needs and Darwin's examination of maturity levels, it would indicate a variance in the way males and females use social media platforms. Template:Gramma this can be determined when referring to a study conducted by Schwartz, Elchstaedt, Kern, Dziurzynski and Ramones (2013) who gained data on the rate of social media engagement by genders. Results demonstrate that males use social media to a lesser extent than females, however when they do speak of women they are possessive, showing that in the social role theory males believe they are somewhat more hierarchical than females. This would indicate that when males do engage with social media is to make a show of opinion, possession and identity and not to necessarily gain esteem approval and social needs from friends, as women may. Another indication to confirm the above point comes from the same study, which found that females display more emotion on social media and rely on platforms to gain approval of the Esteem section of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Schwartz et al. 2013). This may demonstrate a less emotional need from social media for male's self-esteem compared to women. Therefore, the study shows that with relation to social role theory, females are perhaps more emotionally motivated to engage with social media, while males are less attached to social media platforms to gain needs from Maslow's hierarchy such as self-actualisation, esteem and social needs.

Case study quiz[edit | edit source]

1 Why does Belle engage with social media platforms more so than dave?

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and social role theory, Belle relies on social media platforms to fulfil her social role as a female to encourage her self-esteem and embrace social needs.
According to self-determination theory, Belle requires more introjected regulation with regards to posting on social media platforms to receive connection and relatedness to peers.
Belle is emotional and at the age of 17 she biologically requires more attention from friendships etc.
Both option 1 and 2.

2 Why does Dave engage with social media to a lesser extent than Belle?

According to the studies conducted on social role theory and self-determination theory with relation to genders on the internet, males and females engage with social media to the same Dave is lying!
Dave relies significantly less on the introjected regulation and need for competence on social media platforms (self-determination theory). Dave also feels less emotionally motivated to engage with social media platforms to gain esteem approval and social needs from friends/family (Social role theory, with ref. Maslow's hierarchy).
Dave relies on social media less than Belle in the self-determination theory analysis, yet he relies on social media platforms just as much as Belle according to social role theory.
Dave uses social media more than anyone in Belle and Dave's shared friendship circle, as he has many friends around the world due to a significant amount of travel and is even on his social media pages in the early hours of the morning.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In conclusion, this book chapter has addressed the question why males and females differ in their motivation to use social media platforms. We have analysed what motivation is through the analysis of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and amotivation, before continuing on to determine what social media is, what types there are and why individuals may engage in an online presence. However, the most important part was analyzing the relationship between self-determination theory, social role theory and the rate that males and females use social media platforms, and why this occurs. Our overall result revealed that females do engage in social media platforms more so than males for reasons of connectedness, self-esteem approval and introjected regulation.

“Like all technology, social media is neutral but is best put to work in the service of building a better world”

~ Mainwaring, 1967

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Asur, S. & Huberman, B., A. (2012). Predicting the future with social media. Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology, 1, 492 – 499. doi: 10.1109/WI-IAT.2010.63

Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 980-1008. doi:10.1037/a0035661

Dermer, J. & Ven-Hwei, L. (1975). The interrelationship of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Academy of Management Journal, 18(1), 125-129. doi: 10.2307/255630

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). “Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior.” New York: Plenum.

Donath, J., & Boyd, D. M., (2004, October). Public displays of connection. “BT Technology Journal, 22”(4), 71-82. Retrieved from

eBiz. (2014). Top 15 most popular social networking sites. “eBizMBA Rank.” Retrieved from

Hall, R. V., Axelrod, S., L. Tyler, E. Grief, F. C. Jones & R. Robertson. (1972). Effect of reinforcement on use of orthodontic device. “Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 5”, 53-64. Retrieved from

Hull, C. L. (1943). “Principles of behavior”. New York, NY: Appleton–Century–Crofts.

Jung, J. (2013). Amotivation and indecision in the decision-making processes associated with university entry. “Research in Higher Education, 54”(1), 115-136. doi:10.1007/s11162-012-9267-2}}

Khankhunova, M. U., & Choiropov, T. T. (2013). Social media as an instrument of ethnic identity formation. (English). Bulletin Of The East Siberian State University Of Technology / Vestnik VSGTU, 41(2), 169-177.

Lepper, M. R., & Greene, D., & Nisbett, R. E. (1978). Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic rewards: A test of the overjustification hypothesis. “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28”, 129-137. doi: 10.1037/h0035519 }}

Mainwaring, S. (1967). Simon Mainwaring Quotes. Retrieved from

Miller, L., M. & Prior, D., D (2014). Online social networks and friending behavior: A self-determination theory perspective. 1-3. Retrieved from

Null, C., & Homnick, M. (2013). 6 social media mistakes you must avoid. PC World, 31(9), 69-72.

Reeve, J. (2009). “Understanding motivation and emotion” (5th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc: Hoboken, USA.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. “Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25”, 54-67. DOI:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. “American Psychologist, 55,” 68-78. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

Skinner, B. F. (1953). “Science and human behavior.” New York, NY: Macmillan.

Standage, M., Joan, D. L. & Ntoumanis, N. (2005). A test of self-determination theory in school physical education. “British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75”, 411-433. doi: 10.1348/000709904X22359

Wei, R., & Ven-Hwei, L. (2006). Staying connected while on the move. New Media and Society, 8(1), 53-72, doi: 10.1177/1461444806059870

Weiguo, F., & Gordon, M., D. (2014). The Power of Social Media Analytics. Communications Of The ACM, 57(6), 74-81. doi:10.1145/2602574

Wylie, L. (2014). The social media revolution. British Journal Of Midwifery, 22(7), 502-506. }}

External links[edit | edit source]