Like Social Media - Its In Your Genes

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The only group that does more studies than medical professionals is marketing professionals. At the intersection of both groups' work is the question, “Do men or women use social media more, and why?”

To paraphrase the title of John Gray's bestseller from late last-century, “men are from Reddit, women are from Pinterest.” A greater percentage of women use Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. For example, 22 percent of women are active on Twitter, compared to just 15 percent of men. Facebook, which is used by 71 percent of the online population, is overwhelmingly (76 percent) comprised of women as opposed to men (66 percent). Women, on average. have more than twice as many posts on their Facebook walls and 8 percent more ‘friends’ than men. Thirty-three percent of the female internet population is active on Pinterest, while only 8 percent of the men “pin” anything there. You will find a much higher percentage of men frequenting Reddit, YouTube, or any music-based social hub. As for Google+... well, no one is really on that network; only 10 percent of the internet population spend any time there at all.

So much for the stats, but what's the science?

New research from Kent State University indicates that genetics plays a big role in how obsessed we are with our social media. Utilizing twin study data and a behavior genetics framework from the 2013 Midlife in the United States survey, scientists have determined that one- to two-thirds of variance in social media use is attributable to additive genetic traits. The remainder of the variance is determined by unique and shared environmental factors. Previous behavior genetics research using twin study survey data has shown genetic influence on a wide range of communication behaviors, but this is the first study to show that genetic traits also affect social media use.

"There is no 'social media gene,'" clarified Kent State researcher Chance York. "The assumption here is that known genetic variation between fraternal and identical twins can be leveraged to study how genetic variation influences patterns of observable behavior. We are still working in a 'black box' in that we can't directly observe how genes impact our neuroanatomy, which in turn impacts cognitive processing, personality, and subsequent media selection and effects. However, this study -- and this line of inquiry -- is a starting point for studying genetic influence on communication."

York will present the research at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.