“Tend to have” more followers?
1. I do not have the supporting data, and it’s just an empirical observation.
2. It surely is a generalization, and simply focusing on outliers would distract from this curious phenomenon.
It’s just that I’ve noticed that an average female Indian twitter account has higher follower : following ratio than that of males even after adjusting for the subjectively assessed quality/novelty of tweets.
While some might be inclined to attribute this phenomenon to the use of provocative/attractive display pictures by women tweeters or to the subconscious androgenic copulatory contemplations (SACCs)-drive allegedly characteristic of Indian male brain, I have my reasons to partly disagree.
A typical newbie tweeter gains visibility through retweets (RTs), favorites, and when they quote or reply to others’ tweets (and vice versa). The greater the popularity of the established tweeter a newbie interacts with, greater would be the visibility of the latter. And who RTs, favorites, quotes and replies to a newbie’s tweets to increase visibility? Men with SACCs on their mind? If there were an unsatiated army of Indian men who would just go around RTing and favoriting tweets from accounts with pictures uploaded to stimulate imagination (PUSI), wouldn’t those men also require to have sufficient number of followers in the first place to bestow the said visibility? There might be accounts with exceptionally high SACCs-drive, but usually they are unfollowed or blocked by their objects de desire thus rendering them impotent in driving upwards the popularity of their target account.
In my observation, it is the women who interact with each other, RT and favourite each others’ tweets more often than do men, which is critical for new followers at least early on in their twitter career. And I feel following are the reasons for the same:
1. Women tweet less of politics, and are less passionate about it.
Perhaps the most heated exchanges on twitterscape pertain to politics, in which few women tweeters participate with fervor. This avoids their getting muted, unfollowed or blocked. Also, lesser is the heart burn when a woman finds that another woman she follows has differing political ideology.
2. Women are more apt to “agree to disagree”.
In my observation it comes easier to women to publicly let go of a contentious issue if they do not agree with each other (which does not mean they may not bitch about it through DMs/sly tweets or stab their dissenter in effigy resembling the sandwich they would be fixing)[Feminist outrage prompt!], but at least it prevents interactions from getting sufficiently ugly so as to result in mutual blocks or unfollows.
3. Indian female tweeters are socioeconomically lot more homogeneous than male ones.
This is perhaps the most critical contributor to relatively greater apparent cohesion among women tweeters compared to men. It is easy to overlook this fact, but the fraction of men who hail from smaller towns or cities who would have never had the opportunity to learn English as primary means of communication, and those who wouldn’t have had internet or cable TV access in their younger years is much higher than women with these attributes. It would not be inaccurate to say that most Indian female tweeters were at least from middle class families with above-average schooling and a social milieu as girls wherein they could gain sufficient proficiency in English, which enabled them to get exposed to and partake in English television, movies and literature. And the women who were deprived of these tend not to have twitter accounts, which is not the case with men. Additionally, the former kind of women tend to have better financial security owing to their parents’ financial background, having their own source of income or a relatively well earning husband (or all). All in all, most women with twitter accounts are able to focus on more hedonistic/Epicurean pursuits (e.g., having a woman’s face on Indian currency) because they do not have to contend as hard with daily expenses and hardships as have to the presumably more numerous Indian men with twitter accounts. That is why most Indian women tweeters can relate to each others’ concerns and sentiments much better. Also, they would tend to use similar language, would watch the same television serials and movies, listen to similar music, etc. There is very little fragmentation in the socioeconomic strata the Indian women tweeter represent – at the most they would be fragmented by their age, which can be roughly grouped into those:
1. Still in schools/colleges.
2. In early phase of their career.
3. Who are married with or without young children to take care of (many of who would have jobs as well with multitude of attendant worries about children’s nutrition, schooling, their own careers, personal health issues, etc. in addition to some issues that find resonance with virtually all Indian women tweeters).
4. Possibly in the later stages of their career or retired.
I guess categories 2 and 3 represent the majority of Indian female tweeters. But, contrast the women representation with that of the male representation. Am I implying that there are very few Indian male tweeters who had strong financial support system in their childhood and had had opportunities to develop proficiency in English? No, there are possibly lot greater number of men with such profile than women, but they are not the majority among men, and moreover they would tend to be lot more fragmented across political and economical ideologies, niche interests (electronic gadgets, heavy metal, MUFC, etc.). There is very little incentive for a male tweeter who primarily uses the account to air opinions on football matches to engage another male tweeter belonging to the ‘Hindu Defence League’ or ‘Idea of India’ club. But, it is very rare to find women tweeters with such selective interests. Moreover, there is a very vast majority of Indian male tweeters who perhaps find the medium overwhelming or would not be able to articulate their opinions with the result that they end up RANTING IN CAPSSSS, and they are very unlikely to be followed as they would have nothing particularly novel to contribute to the medium. The outcome of greater homogeneity among Indian female tweeters compared to that among men is that that the former would find themselves falling in one or more age groups I enumerated above, would be able to relate to each other much better at many levels, and would also be able to have more meaningful interactions, which actually make their twitter experience more fulfilling. Thus, it is not unusual to find that most women belonging to one of the above age groups would know most other women tweeters also belonging to the same gropu with regular exchange of musings, updates, household related tips and occasional rallying behind common causes. Is there a margin for the same to happen with male tweeters? Very narrow, in my opinion.
Most urban women with twitter accounts would’ve faced gender discrimination and misogyny or would be able to relate much better to instances of their practice. These issues could pertain to gender related prejudices, sexual harassment in public or even among peers, discrimination at jobs, etc. Also, I believe somehow both the mass and the social media make it seem ‘cool’ to espouse feminism, and create their own variety of peer pressure to rally about any issue that is perceived to have relation to feminism. All these factors create a collective sense of victimhood (a term I don’t mean to use in a flippant way), and results in further social cohesion. It is not possible, e.g., to exchange tweets citing instances of gender discrimination or the possible solutions to them, and yet not follow each other. I can hardly think of any such male-centric topics which women would not participate in.
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (Click) Online life recapitulates offline tendencies.
Traditionally, it has been considered acceptable in India for women to be garrulous, and they are also expected to be more vivacious. While high-fives and hugs have become fads among adolescent boys as displays of social bonding in recent years, I have always been seeing girls and women as more bubbly, exuberant, sociable and warm compared to boys and men. Hence, it’s not uncommon to see women over twitter tweet nothing but “*hugs*”, “*kisses*”, “love, babes” etc., or their emoji equivalents to each other. Needless to say, such overtures are not usually passed by women, and end up creating further incentive/pressure to follow and promote each other.
These points bring me to the end of my hypothesis.
None of the above points are meant to take away from popularity of some Indian female tweeters who indeed owe it to their originality and ability to engage other tweeters’ attention. Further, I also understand that every individual is different, and all or none of the above points might apply to you even if you were a female Indian tweeter.
Last, I’m also not saying that SACCs-drive and PUSI have no role to play in contributing to relative popularity of female tweeters. 😉 After all, would I dare blaspheme against @doctoratlarge? Click! Click!