October 10, 2009
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Ladies love social networks, and it’s not just because tweeting sounds like something that chicks do naturally. Social networking has been taken up by women because it has become one of the easiest and quickest ways to keep in touch with friends, meet like-minded women and informally network with a wide range of contacts.
Of course, men like having friends too. But for women — known for their ability to multitask and the high value they place on personal relationships — Twitter, Facebook and the host of other social-networking sites allow them to fit in the serious business of socialising around work, family and other hobbies, presumably shoe shopping.
The popularity of social networking among women over 30 was obvious to me when I attended the BlogHer conference in Chicago. At the biggest annual conference for women bloggers, you feel underdressed if you show up with only one blog (one woman had seven). The atmosphere is an oestrogen soup of personal and business bloggers writing about everything from the lesbian lifestyle to cleaning tips. But practically every business card I was handed included a Twitter feed or a Facebook page.
Forget about “the new black”. For many women I know, Twitter is the new e-mail. It’s more immediate, feels more like a personal conversation, and unlike your overflowing Outlook inbox you can control whose messages make it on to your screen. Instead of having an isolated exchange with your contacts, you join an online conversation that includes interesting links, pictures and their other fabulous friends.
The latest news and chatter is filtered through your network through retweeted links. You feel plugged in and included. And since you’re restricted to 140 characters, you never have to feel guilty about sending only a quick update while microwaving your lunch or waiting for your train to arrive.
If you think this makes social networking sound a bit sad — something practised by Norma No-mates or rather Norma- 1,263-mates-but-nobody-ever-calls — you’re missing the point. There’s more pressure on women to be managing a brilliant career, an engaged family life and a busy social life. Networking allows women to reach out in a way that perfectly suits the female-friendly collaborative approach and one that slots easily into busy schedules.
Several times a day I can check one site and find out what my three closest friends in New York, Washington and California are thinking about, reading, discussing, and photographing. Best of all, because we’re always up to date on each other’s news, when we do manage to meet up, there’s less time spent on “the story so far” and more time to order mojitos, gossip… and tweet the news to all our other friends.
Jennifer Howze is the online lifestyle editor of The Times and the lead blogger on Alpha Mummy (www.alphamummy.com), The Times’s parenting blog