Gender standards are entirely pervasive. We raise our sons to be masculine and our daughters to be feminine, which perpetuates the gender role formula when they grow up to be parents and raise their own children. Part of this whole equation is that boys are supposed to remain stoic and project an air of strength, and girls are expected to be amiable while being held to unrealistic standards of outward beauty.
The rules society has set for us have never been more apparent than they are today on social media. In a virtual world without physical boundaries, we can observe interactions and glean information that is normally obscured by social niceties. There are plenty of underlying aspects at play, of course, but one of the most entrenched and primal elements of the human condition might be the most interesting of them all.
Women take to social media like ducks to water—this is their stage. The nurturer role they were born into plays perfectly into the socializing aspect of it all. Selfies taken from carefully calculated vantage points can be shared with ease, proving once and for all that they're worthy of the Barbie doll standards we've subliminally set for our daughters.
But if men aren't supposed to gossip, nor are they allowed to primp and preen, then why are they frequenting social media sites whose main purpose is to mix, mingle, and put on airs? Because women are on social media, and men want to get with these women.
That's not to say that all men on social media sites are pervs, just that they wouldn't be as active on these sites if it weren't for the potential to find a mate. It's simply not an environment that meshes well with the masculine gender role, but men persevere in the name of love. I mean, how many girlfriends sit through hours of football every Sunday just to spend quality time with their boyfriends?
It's an aspect of Facebook, Instagram, and similar photo-centric social media sites that is rarely explored—because much like gender roles themselves, we like to pretend that we're above it all. We're an evolved, progressive people, so there's got to be more to us than that, right?
Truthfully, we are the sum of our parts—but some parts have more impact on our overall behavioral patterns than others. Because gender roles are ingrained from birth, they become a foundation upon which many other behaviors are built and shaped—and when we apply this to the microcosm of social media, we find the same patterns as society at large.
Now to be fair, I'm no cultural anthropologist. These are just the opinions of one man who was raised in the society we've created for ourselves, and it's very possible that I'm alone in my opinion (although I suspect I may not be).