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Study: Women use Facebook to compete for men

Researchers say that women who base their self-worth on their appearance tend to share more photos on Facebook. Results suggest they do it to compete for attention.

I want you to focus on Kim Kardashian. Do you think she uses her looks to compete for attention?

OK. Now I want you to focus on Facebook. Do you think that women post lots of pictures of themselves to compete for the attention of others--men, for example?

I worry that your answer to both these questions will be "yes." I worry even more, because your views might be confirmed by research from a couple of academics at universities in New York, Texas, and Hawaii.

For their work, published in a journal called "Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking," makes for troubling reading.

Apparently, women who tend to judge their own self-worth more on appearance tend to post more pictures of themselves on Facebook. The study's results suggest they do this to compete for, as they say in marketing, eyeballs.

University of Buffalo researcher Michael A. Stefanone, Ph.D., on his university's own site, put it like this: "It is disappointing to me that in the year 2011 so many young women continue to assert their self worth via their physical appearance--in this case, by posting photos of themselves on Facebook as a form of advertisement."

He wasn't going to stop there, though. For he, too, would like to focus on Kim Kardashian.

He continued: "Perhaps this reflects the distorted value pegged to women's looks throughout the popular culture and in reality programming from 'The Bachelor' to 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians.'"

Men, Stefanone says in the video that I have embedded, judge their self-worth on the basis of competition and achievement. (I beg--no, I fight--to differ.)

The researchers looked at time spent online, the breadth of an individual's social network, and the number of pictures shared. The average age of the researchees was 23.3. Of the 311 participants, 49.8 percent were female. Subjects completed a questionnaire "measuring their contingencies of self worth." They were also asked about their typical behavior on Facebook.

But there is one statistic that might affect the rest of your day--or even your useful life: Women, according to this study, post around five times as many pictures on Facebook as do men.

Naturally, several combative possibilities come to my mind.

Could it be that women know they look better, so feel less inhibited about exhibiting themselves in such a public forum as Facebook?

Could it be that men often have the communication skills of a mouthless slug and therefore use Facebook to gawk--just as they stand around the outside of a dance floor, rather than participate in the actual dancing?

Or could it be that women know that they are simply playing a game--a tiresome and, hopefully, temporary one--to take their lives in a direction they find more palatable?