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Gender and image sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp in the UK: Hobbying alone or filtering for friends?

Mike Thelwall (School of Mathematics and Computing, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)
Farida Vis (Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 20 November 2017




Despite the on going shift from text-based to image-based communication in the social web, supported by the affordances of smartphones, little is known about the new image sharing practices. Both gender and platform type seem likely to be important, but it is unclear how. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper surveys an age-balanced sample of UK Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp image sharers with a range of exploratory questions about platform use, privacy, interactions, technology use and profile pictures.


Females shared photos more often overall and shared images more frequently on Snapchat, but males shared more images on Twitter, particularly for hobbies. Females also tended to have more privacy-related concerns but were more willing, in principle, to share pictures of their children. Females also interacted more through others’ images by liking and commenting on them. Both genders used supporting apps but in different ways: females applied filters and posted to albums whereas males retouched photos and used photo organising apps. Finally, males were more likely to be alone in their profile pictures.

Practical implications

Those designing visual social web communication strategies to reach out to users should consider the different ways in which platforms are used by males and females to optimise their message for their target audience.

Social implications

There are clear gender and platform differences in visual communication strategies. Overall, males may tend to have more informational and females more relationship-based, skills or needs.


This is the first detailed survey of electronic image sharing practices and the first to systematically compare the current generation of platforms.



This paper was funded by ESRC Grant ES/M000648/1.


Thelwall, M. and Vis, F. (2017), "Gender and image sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp in the UK: Hobbying alone or filtering for friends?", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 69 No. 6, pp. 702-720.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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