Women and Facebook: Which Comes First – Toothbrush or Status Updates?

The alarm clock rings and another day begins. Time to stagger towards the bathroom and one’s morning ablutions. Unless you are part of the 34% of women who check their Facebook updates first. Before even brushing their teeth. That’s right, 34%!

David Kaplan, a correspondent for paidContent.org, shares a bit about that number and how it was sourced:

For a large segment of women, checking Facebook has become a primary part of their morning routine, with the act of scrolling through status updates the first thing they do when waking. In a poll last month of 1,605 U.S. adults who use social media, 34 percent told NBC Universal’s Oxygen Media Facebook comes before brushing their teeth and nearly 40 percent are self-described ‘Facebook addicts.’ The survey also found that 26 percent of women 18- to 34 get up in the middle of the night to read text messages and 37 percent of that group say they have fallen asleep with a PDA in their hands. Even the best teeth whitening strips should not be left on overnight, however, 7 to 12 percent of women were found to fall asleep, PDA in hand while also having whitening strips in their mouths.

I’m sure you have at least one friend who seems to exist with his or her smartphone glued to his or her hand. It’s all part of the new era of connectivity that has exploded over the last decade, and Facebook is currently the leading connection. This is especially true where women are concerned.

Here are some fascinating usage stats this new report brings to light:

  • 34% check Facebook before doing anything else in when they wake up, including brushing teeth or using the bathroom
  • 26% get up in the middle of the night to read text messages
  • 21% confessed to checking Facebook during the night
  • 39% are self proclaimed Facebook addicts
  • 37% have fallen asleep with their PDA in their hands
  • 78% think it’s okay to check someone else’s Facebook profile multiple times a day
  • 19% say they have gotten into fights with loved ones about spending too much time with their PDAs/cell phones
  • 31% feel more confident about their online persona than in their real lives.

Gavin O’Mally, a reporter for Media Post, believes that this seemingly addictive behavior is responsible for Facebook’s ability to weather its recent bad press and public backlash against its constantly changing privacy policies. He also cites another report which makes these numbers even more interesting, especially from an advertising perspective:

According to a recent study from rich-media provider Unicast, women age 18-24 are more receptive to online advertising in various formats than the overall population — and are particularly interested in localized information, surveys, social media formats and downloadable content.

I’m sure that the combination of receptivity and the “always-on” mentality indicated by these figures is one that marketers everywhere are strategizing how to leverage. Of course, marketers have been struggling with this transition from traditional media to new media for some time now.

Radio Business Report makes an intersting observation, which shows the power of sharing links on Facebook:

Traditional means of communication have been tossed aside by today’s modern young woman 18-34. When keeping in touch with family, friends and various associates an overwhelming 73% agree they text more than they talk on the phone and more than half (56%) consider texting their main form of communication. Keeping with this new age trend, tech obsessed young women have also replaced traditional forms of media as their primary news sources — 48% find out about news through Facebook more often than traditional news outlets and 41% of those who use Twitter use it to stay up to date on current events and news.

This is a trend that I see as being fueled by the growing availability of smartphones. I know many people who want nothing to do with sitting down in front of a computer, but they are always checking in on Facebook or Twitter with their Droid or iPhone. I’m sure you know a few folks like that yourself.

Of course, this also brings along a blurring of the line between personal and business, as Ben Parr, co-editor of Mashable, notes:

The Oxygen Media/Lightspeed Research survey is filled with a lot of other interesting data points, but it all circles back to the privacy issue. 54% of 18-24 year old women do not trust Facebook with their private information, and 89% agree that ‘you should never put anything on Facebook that you don’t want your parents to see.’ That seems contradictory to the 42% that think it’s fine to post pictures of themselves drunk.

So, what do you think? Are any of these findings surprising, or are they about what you’ve expected? Why?

Let us know in the comments!

Source: “Oxygen: Women Are Addicted To Facebook, But Unsure Where To Draw The Lines,” paidContent.org, 07/06/10
Source: “Study: More Than One-Third Of Women ‘Addicted’ To Facebook,” Media Post, 07/06/10
Source: “The social media habits of women 18-34,” Radio Business Report, 07/06/10
Source: “The First Thing Young Women Do in the Morning: Check Facebook [STUDY],” Mashable, 07/07/10
Image by Franco Bouly, used under its Creative Commons license.

About George Williams

George "Loki" Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.


Leave a Comment


  1. Absolutely not surprising. In social anthropology there is a school of thought that for women, communications as a means to connect, discuss and form strong communities is a survival mechanism going back to the start of human development.

    For women, survival was not based on the same form of physical brawn men had (and have) as a means of fighting or defense to survive, but on the ability to gather and organize people quickly in large numbers; ability to listen to quickly gauge situations; and quickly organize and spread the word; and talk their way out of sticky situations. That old argument of “she talks all the time, I can never win an argument with my wife”…type cliche.

    Thus, in my professional world (communications) this means that the theory is in social media certain women (but not all because that would be a generalization) are more keyed into valuing connections and communications than men are in a way that translates to time spent on social networking sites. In social media influence terms these are often defined by Forrester Research methods as “Spiders” or “Suns” in the way they connect and influence others (see Twitalyzer) for a good example of this metric. In theory, this in turn translates to consumer behavior and buying influence on others. The correlation being, the more connected and influential one is, the more active they are on social media, and the larger their network the more impact a person will have on the consumer decisions of others’. Women are a market that marketers spend a gazillion dollars trying to reach in various old school and new school social media methods because in demographic terms women still make the majority of spending decisions over many household consumer items in family units (especially around household goods, decor, groceries, kid stuff, family cars, vacations, you name it), this is the target demographic marketers drool over and so of course, the above blog post info is of interest to them. However, it’s just not that surprising to those of us who work in this realm, especially around areas of “women” products or say, Mommy Bloggers.

    As for the contradictory info. Well, anyone who has studied consumers surveying methods knows there is a WIDE margin of discrepancy between what people SAY they believe and what they actually DO with regards to behavior. Good surveys and studies around belief vs. behavior items factor that into the equation – always. An example is, “I know that eating a carton of Hagen Daaz and sitting on my butt all night in front of the TV is bad for me…” and yet what do Americans do? You get the point. Women in particular are very prone to this discrepancy for a variety of reasons such as social stigma of being a “good girl vs bad girl”, etc. So of course they will say it’s bad to post drunken photos, Facebook privacy worries them, but then whoopsie 3 mojitos later and all their friends are doing it and the next thing you know…naked hot tub photos on Facebook.

    Anyway, my 2 cents worth of input. Hopefully it’s actually worth a nickel.

  2. Lizzy it is always a pleasure to have you chime in on these topics!

    You are dead right, there are a complex array of social conditioning and behavioral issues underlying these stats and thanks for bringing up the “Spiders” and “Suns” models presented by Forrester, I had meant to mention that and cut it due to length. (An interesting note, my own influence seems to generally follow the spider model.)

    Great stuff, I’d give a dime for that two cents!

  3. KarenDragon says:

    Great article George! I am, fortunately, not in that 18-34 age bracket and can honestly say I never check Facebook or anything else for that matter until I’ve had my shower, brushed my teeth, and gone to work ~ at least for the normal work-week. Now Saturday and Sunday are different ~ I still haven’t brushed my teeth or washed up yet today, but I’m here on Facebook seeing what the rest of the world is up to!

    I believe Lizzy’s comments were “dead right” too. Thanks for the thought-provoking on this beautiful Sunday morning!

  4. Loki,

    Great survey on women’s usage of social networking. I find several of the numbers surprising and even doubtful, for example, that over one quarter of women between the ages of 18-34 on social networks get up in the night to read text messages.

    The source is a small phone sample conducted by polling company for Oxygen Media, part of NBC Universal. These numbers were widely reported, but sound dubious — for example, how do they confirm the ages of those responding? The Huffington Post cites the same survey asked questions limited to women aged 18-24. Bianca Bosker, technology editor for The Huff, quotes another statistic from the same survey: 24% of men claim they broke off relationships using Facebook. No age bracket is given for that staggering number. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/07/women-on-facebook-42-thin_n_637553.html

    The number that really jumped out for me is that nearly half the women polled turn to Facebook for news before other media outlets. This begs the question of what is “news?” Is it possible that nearly half of young women online consider what is happening to their friends on Facebook to be more important, more “newsworthy,” than what is covered by NBC Nightly News or The New York Times?

    Is learning that a Facebook friend found a job more important than learning the national unemployment figures? Nearly half of these young women would likely say, “yes!”

    Co-Founder, SixEstate Communications

  5. @Karen, thanks for chiming in! Glad this was enjoyable for your Sunday!

    @Steve – I don’t think there is a polling methodology our there that is free of flaws, Still, most of the studies since early 2009 show a clear path to conclusions of this nature.

    As to checking FB for news I it is not that these people are turning to their friends rather than news, but turning towards news items shared by their friends. Just within my own social circles I know many people of both genders who get more than half their news through links that have been shared by their friends on Facebook or Twitter.

    The national unemployment figures you mention are still of greater overall import, but are more likely to be found once a friend has shared a link through a social network.