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Gender Differences In Mobile Phone Use Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5504 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The study aims at exploring the gender differences in mobile phone usage by the male and female. Two main dimensions of mobile phone use are voice call and texting. Following Rubin et al (1988)’s six interpersonal motives, the study collects data from a cluster of graduate and undergraduate students to assess what communication motives do they feel gratified while using mobile phones in both the dimensions.

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Contemporarily, we are passing through a transformation phase where communication technologies are shaping the destinies of ‘new world’. Old fashion capital and labour-intensive technologies are being replaced by the innovative technologies which include robotics, cellular communications, miniature motors, super computers, software production and high performance materials. Contemporary technological advancement and improvement like internet and computer mediated communication indicate that the communication technology revolution is still young. Significant aspects of this revolution include speed, integrity, sophistication, and cost. Interestingly, the high cost of telecommunication has been reduced drastically as compared to what it was in the last decade: almost negligible. Similarly, superconductivity and data compression and integration techniques have made it possible to produce ‘mobisodes’ – short episodes for mobile viewers, and ‘webisodes’ – minidramas to view on net and in advertisements (Vivian, 2007, p.197).

The technological boom in the recent times has introduced new facets of media in the cultural settings of every society. Internet and cyber-spacing are stretching the commercial organizations to the boundaries of imagination. Paperless business transactions through e-mails and internet have altered the ways of doing business and changed culture in economic institution. National frontiers do not seem to exist anymore as business alliances have expanded beyond physical boundaries. Logical lines distinguish the business’s nature and extent, while complex transnational commercial alliances are taking place where the manufacturers do not know for whom they are producing and ordering agencies do not know where the products will be marketed and used. Competition has expanded worldwide and capital is flowing through satellites. Such business environment is absolutely unprecedented that has affected the cultural spheres with the same speed and spirit.

Other face of technological development is the value of information. Information has become a commodity which affects economics immensely. Contemporary advanced technology has not only made economics to smooth and faster through rapid flow of data and information, but it has also created a culture conducive to economic growth. Similarly, unlike old indicators and predictors of economic growth, communication technology has set new standards and parameters to gauge development of a society. For instance, those who have access to modern technologies and benefit from them and those who don’t have access are two main social classes with different cultural identities.

Poverty and affluence are two binary features of every society, and they have ramifications on the construction and development of culture of a social system. Technological progress has also affected the primitive social stratification regimes which has bases in economic wealth. New social categories have been created by the technologies. These categories are less economic based rather rely on the degree of diffusion of innovative technologies in a society. The four distinguished features are: high-speed, knowledge intensive, transnational and highly disciplinarian. The old disparities between rich and poor have been overwhelmed by new differences: fast and slow, learning and static, plugged-in and unplugged and localized or globalized. Apparently, the difference between poor and rich is visible from their acquisition of education and institution of enrolment. This distinction is quickly vanishing as poorly staffed educational institutions are being upgraded almost overnight through virtual links with premier universities of the world. ‘Virtual educational environment’ is developing on strong footings effecting cost and quality parameters of education. Now, due to technological enhancement, it is possible for people to learn anything, anytime, anywhere.

Marshal McLuhan prophecies are proving true in present day media dominated societies. He, in early 1960s, focused on a different aspect of technological developments called media determinism. The epistemological assumption of media determinism explains that the society changes its ways of communication with the change of information medium. McLuhan says that new technologies alter the culture for better understanding of the technology and ways to use it. This indicates a constant change process of culture and societal ways of doing things due to fast growing information technologies and emerging media. ‘Medium is the message’ is the title of McLuhan’s best selling book where he explains his ultimate position on media determinism. He believes that ‘we shape our tools (media) and they (media) in turn shape us’ (Griffin, 2003, p.344). For him, it has less significant that ‘what is said’, rather ‘how it is delivered’ matters. Besides ‘global village’ and ‘medium is the message’, McLuhan’s phrase ‘technology as extensions of the human body’ also attracted media theorist and generated a great debate. Similarly, he used ‘tetrad’ [1] to explain the effects of technology on culture and society. Marshal McLuhan visualised the effects of mass media on society and culture in early 1960s when technological development had not hit media spheres as immensely as it seems now. Due to his prophetic approach in understanding the effects of technology on culture of a society, he gained the status of a cult hero and ‘high priest of pop-culture’ [2] .

Literature review

The studies on mobile phone use draw on the telephone research based on uses and gratifications perspective. They attempt to explain the reasons people make use of (mobile) phone and what kinds of expectations or gratifications people like to have in (mobile) phone. According to telephone studies, generally two categories of motives are found: instrumental or task-oriented and intrinsic or social motives (e.g., Dimmick et al., 1994b; Fischer, 1988; Keller, 1977; Noble, 1987; O’Keefe et al., 1995; Springer, 1981). Intrinsic use means that people communicate with others through telephone for the purpose of companionship or reassurance, while instrumental use refers to use of telephone for utility, for example, information seeking or making appointments.

But the reasons people use mobile phones are a bit different from the reasons they use telephones. Leung & Wei (2000) found not only social and instrumental motives of mobile phone use but mobility, immediacy, and fashion/status motives as well. In a similar way, Bae (2001) shows that the Korean people’s satisfactions sought from mobile phone are entertainment, sociability, transaction, Immediacy and privacy. In his study, immediacy and privacy reflect the characteristics of mobile phone communication. Besides, Lee (2001) suggests a variety of motives of Korean college students, like; time management, face and conformity, and showing off.

Why do people communicate and what interpersonal motives they essentially gratify from mobile use are interesting aspects addressed in this paper. We understand that mobile phone is primarily a medium of interpersonal communication, of which motives assess one’s functional preferences for communication (Rubin et al., 1988). Moreover, these motives ‘affect who people talk to, how they talk, and what they talk about’ (Barbato et al., 2003, p.126).

Interpersonal communication motives refer to basic reasons people communicate with others. Schutz (1966) suggests that interpersonal needs are fulfilled on both behavioral and emotional levels. Behaviorally, ‘inclusion’ is the need to perform satisfactory interactions and associations with others. Emotionally, it is the need to maintain mutual interests and acknowledge others. Behaviorally, ‘control’ is the need to initiate or preserve power and influence over others. Emotionally, it is the call for achievement or the need to maintain mutual respect for the capability of others. Behaviorally, ‘affection’ is the need to initiate or keep relationships based on love, respect, and care. Emotionally, it is the need to achieve or maintain mutual support and connection with others (Schutz, 1966).

In Rubin et al.’s (1988) seminal study, six motives were identified: pleasure, affection, inclusion, escape, relaxation, and control. Those provoked to communicate for pleasure do so for leisure, stimulation, and entertainment. The people, who were motivated to communicate for affection, do so to show appreciation and concerned for others. Those motivated to communicate for inclusion do so to avoid being lonely. Those motivated to communicate for escape do so to avoid other activities and pass time. Those motivated to communicate for relaxation do so to chill out and rest. Finally, those motivated to communicate for control do so to gain compliance or obedience from others. Robin (1988) divided motives into further two categories: relationally oriented motives (affection, inclusion, pleasure, and relaxation) and personal influence motives (control and escape). Studies have examined motives for communicating in general and motives in specific interpersonal relationships, ranging from non-intimate to intimate (Bailey et al., 2003). Graham et al (1993) argues that communicating for affective motives is common not just in family relationships but in other intimate dyads such as lovers and close friends. Bailey et al. (2003) adds more that although co-workers are motivated to communicate with one another for relaxation, they are not motivated to communicate with one another for inclusion. The motives to communicate with others of similar relationship type can be different; for instance, the motives to communicate with sons and daughters vary even if both are in parent-child relationships.

With this background, we will pay attention to the relationships between six interpersonal motives and mobile phone use. Research is different from other uses and gratifications researches because social and interpersonal aspects of mobile phone use are the focal point; this study addresses how people meet their interpersonal needs through mobile phone.

The basic function of mobile phone is to mediate two persons. We generally use a mobile phone to contact others. Especially for young generation, text messaging is one of the most favorite interpersonal channels (Grinter & Eldridge, 2001; Kasesniemi et al., 2002). Text messaging seems equal, and in case of youth rather superior, to voice call.

Obviously voice call and text messaging are separate and independent media although both are contained in one device. Voice call has higher level of social presence and is richer medium than text messaging. Social presence means ‘the feeling that other actors are jointly involved in communicative interaction’ (Short et al., 1976, p.65).

Likewise media richness refers to the ability of the medium to transmit multiple cues, immediacy of feedback, language variety and personal focus of the medium (Daft & Lengel, 1986). Perse & Courtright (1993) suggests that text-based interactions (e.g., e-mail, SMS, IMS) have been found to have less social presence or media richness than voice-based interactions (telephone or voice mail) as they lack nonverbal cues compared with other media. Therefore, it is clear that text messaging in a mobile device provides lower level of richness and social presence than mobile phone call does. We, therefore, consider voice and text channels included in a mobile phone as equal alternatives to be selected when people want to communicate with others apart.

In gender difference theory, it is generally considered that women differ from men and vice versa. The difference has been typically referred as ‘expressive and instrumental’ (Parsons & Bales, 1955), or as ‘communal and agentic’ (Bakan, 1966). Parsons & Bales (1955) differentiate masculine and feminine quality as instrumental and expressive, respectively. Criterion of such division is situative motivation. So, instrumentality refers orientation of the person to achievement of the purpose outside the situation interpersonal interaction characterized by tolerance to emotional reactions of other persons. Expressivity considers a fulfillment of interests of the person directly on a situation of interpersonal interaction according to emotional reactions of other persons (Parsons & Bales, 1955). Similarly, Bakan (1966) notes that gender differences can be divided into communal and agentic dimensions. Communal dimension involves concern for others, whereas agentic behaviors signify a focus on independence.

Wajcman (1991) contends that women have been excluded from the connection between men and technology, and that the production and use of technology are shaped by male power and interests. To show the technology’s masculinity, he illustrates various social processes interrelated make new technology; for example, computer into an unfamiliar culture for women. In this culture, people cannot help but think women as inferior to men in cognition and performance relating to technology (Ibid). Accordingly, in this study we examine the gender differences in motivations and uses of mobile media.

Such exclusive qualities as relation-oriented vs. task-oriented have been identified in different researches. According to Deaux and Lewis (1984), stereotypical man is instrumental, assertive, competitive, dynamic, and task-competent; the stereotypical woman is kind, nurturing, sensitive, relationally oriented, and expressive. In a metaanalysis, Mazzella et al. (1994) concludes that gender differences in personality are generally even across ages, educational levels, and nations. Moreover, popular press propagates gender stereotypes. Masculinity presented by press is strong, ambitious, successful, rational, and non emotional while femininity is attractive, deferential, unaggressive, emotional, nurturing, and concerned with people and relationships (Wood, 1996).

Perceptions about new technology are issue to gender analysis, and when observing communication habits, it is important to be aware of the different ways in which male and females view the telephone in general. Men are stereotypically expected to possess ‘technological competence and know how, skills and interest’ (Lohan, 1997).

In contrast to the ‘task-orientated’ usage that characterizes the ‘male’ use of the telephone, Lohan (1997) describes ‘female’ style as ‘person-oriented’. ‘Gossip’ is often a word used to describe ‘what women do’ on the telephone. Such gender differences are also found in patterns of media behaviors. For a telephone, women use it more than men (Claisse & Rowe, 1987; Fischer, 1992) and their motive for using it is primarily ‘intrinsic or social’ one (Claisse & Rowe, 1987; Dimmick, Sikand, & Patterson, 1994a; Moyal, 1992; Rakow, 1988). They keep close personal relationship and set up their relationship with others who are at a distance.

As for a mobile phone, the gender difference in conventional telephone use seems to have extended. In a research by Leung & Wei (2000), men tend to use mobile phone as an instrument to do business while women tend to make social calls, and men make use of it more than women do. In addition women have more attachment to their mobile phones than man do, especially to text massaging (Sun, 2004).

Ling et al. (2005), a Norwegian researcher found difference in texting behavior between sexes despite the fact that men were quicker in adopting mobile phone and women became the more enthusiastic texters. On the basis of his deep observations, Linger suggested that ‘women are more adroit and more literary texters’.

Negating the statement that gender use of mobile phone is becoming similar, study among young Finns (16-20 years) identifies that males tend to ward ‘trendy use’ (focus on design and technology functions) while females tended toward ‘addictive use’ (focus on the use value) (Wilska 2003). In Europe, where mobile text messaging is more popular, a recent study shows that female users in the age group of 12 to 25 are apparently more enthusiastic about using SMS as a means of communication than male users (Peters et al, 2003).

Samarajiva (2008), in a survey of low-income telephone users in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, found little gender differences in calls per month and call duration. Neilsen Mobile’s recent data on texting in the U.S. shows a huge bulge in texting for ages 13-17, but the data are not broken down by sex.

Theoretical Framework

For this study, it has been found that Uses and Gratification approach propounded by Blumer and Katz is the most suitable theory to base the research and its finding.

Media users have a free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will affect them. It is an optimistic view of the media according to uses and gratification approach. Blumler and Katz’s uses and gratification theory suggests that media users play an active role in choosing and using the media.  Users take an active part in the communication process and are goal oriented in their media use. It is audience-centered approach that a media user seeks out a media source that best fulfills the needs of the user. The actual needs satisfied by media are called media gratifications. Katz, Gurevitch and Haas (1973) developed 35 needs taken from the social and psychological functions of the mass media and put them into five categories [3] : cognitive needs, affective needs, personal integrative needs, social integrative needs, and tension release needs.

With respect to modern technology such as mobile phone, this theory still applies.

The mobile phone has multiple functions; communication device (voice calls, text messaging), entertainment device (music, games), information source i.e. mobile internet (Google-ing, online news, etc). For this study, mobile phone will serve the communication function of media and will investigate male and female interpersonal motives and the channel (voice call/ text messaging) they prefer most to satisfy their interpersonal needs. Out of above mentioned needs, only six interpersonal needs; inclusion, control, affection, pleasure, escape, and relaxation – will be taken in the perspective of both voice calls and text messaging.

Blumler & Katz wraps up the model that different people can use the same communication message for very different purpose. Single media content may gratify different needs for different individuals and there is not only one way that people use media, there are as many reasons for using the media as there are media users. In interpersonal motive context, one may satisfy his inclusion need through sending a text message but the other may feel it pleasure to send a text message. In the same way it may be an act of escape for a person to make a voice call but the other person may feel relax while making a call. Even a voice call/ text message may possibly satisfy more than one interpersonal needs of the sender/receiver.

Research questions

Following are the main research questions addressed in this research:

RQ1: Are there differences between men and women in frequencies of using voice calls and text messaging.

RQ2: Are there differences in men and women in interpersonal motives for using voice call and text messaging?

In order to collect data on our main variable, we replicated Rubin et al.’s interpersonal motives; inclusion, control, affection, pleasure, escape, and relaxation – in context of both voice calls and text messaging.


This is research is quantitative in nature, and data was collected in a survey using a close-ended questionnaire. The instrument was developed to measure the differences between men and women in the interpersonal motives for using voice call and text messaging. Respondents were also asked to report their frequency of mobile phone use, overall number of calls and text messages sent and received in a day.

Like most of this kind of researches, we used ordinal level of measurement wherein attributes were rank ordered. Likert scale was used to measure the interpersonal motives. 

The population under investigation is mobile phone users from all the universities of Islamabad – the capital of Pakistan. Since these mobile phone users are diverse and discrete, it is not easy to investigate the entire population. The researcher adopted cluster sampling technique to collect a sample of 200 students all the six public sector universities, including 100 from each gender. Both genders have been divided in five faculties by randomly selecting forty students from each faculty.

For this study, the variables that were conceptualized and operationalized include young adults, text messaging and interpersonal motives. 

Young adult are those attaining age between late teens and early twenties. For data collection on this key variable, we selected a group of male and female ages between 18 and 26 as our target population. 

According to PC magazine, sending short messages to a smart phone, pager, PDA or other handheld device is called text messaging [4] . For this study text message is conceptualized as Short Messaging Service (SMS) through mobile phone, which supports messages of up to 160 characters. 

An emotion, desire, physiological need, or similar impulse that acts as an incitement to action is called motive [5] . The data have been collected on Rubin et al.’s interpersonal motives; inclusion, control, affection, pleasure, escape, and relaxation.

The six interpersonal motives have been conceptualized and operationalized in the following manner:

Please: The gratification of the senses or mind or agreeable sensations or emotions is called pleasure [6] . For the purpose of research pleasure is operationalized as an act that a person do for entertainment, fun and enjoyment.

Affection: Affection is a tender feeling toward another [7] and was operationalized for this study affection as an act of showing appreciation and care for others.

Inclusion: The act of including or the state of being included is called inclusion [8] . We have conceptualized inclusion as the desire to be with someone. To avoid being lonely.

Escape: Escape means to break loose from confinement or get free [9] . For data collection on this motive, we have operationalized escape as to pass the time or avoid other activities.

Relaxation: Relaxation is generally taken as rest or freedom from activity/work/strain or responsibility and it is operationalized as an activity to chill out.

Control: Controllability is to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over someone or to direct someone [10] . For the purpose of data collection on this variable we have operationaized it to gain compliance or obedience from others.


Of the respondents, our sample was equally represented by both male and female. 24% of the respondents were between the ages of 18-20, 52% were 21-24 years, and 18% were in 24-26 years age bracket, while the remaining 7% were in over 26 years age group. Age distribution of the respondents don’t show an even representation of all age groups as the research emphasis was on even gender representation.

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However in the income distribution, 33% of the respondents fell in the 20-30 (thousand) category, while 28% fell in 31-40 (thousand) category. Only 17% & 21% fell in 41-50(thousand) and above 50 thousand categories respectively. In Pakistan, income below Rs.30,000 is considered below average, and average between Rs.30,000 and Rs.40,000, while people with income over Rs.40,000 is considered good. However, it greatly depends on the area one lives in besides the size of family.

Gender difference in communication motives was calculated on the basis of six interpersonal motives (inclusion, control, affection, pleasure, escape, and relaxation) in context of voice call and text messaging and use of mobile phone was calculated on the basis of calls and text messages sent or received in a day. Results indicate that 36% of the respondents use mobile phone very often, 52% often, while 11% of the respondents use their cell seldom and only 1% reported that they don’t use mobile phone daily.

In the context of voice call and text messaging, inclusion and affection motives are closely related to each other as 68%, 56% agree, and 16%, 32% strongly agree to the statement respectively that they make a voice call / text messaging to show affection and care to their dear ones. While 50%, 49% agree and 14%, 30% strongly agree to the statement respectively that they make a voice call / send text message to be with someone or avoid being loneliness.

RQ1: Are there differences between men and women in frequencies of using voice calls and text messaging.

Descriptive statistics indicate no significance difference in mobile phone use among male and female users. Almost equal percentage (male: 92% & female: 84%) of our population used mobile. Hence, the results do not indicate any significant difference in mobile phone by both the genders.

Five bands with options 0-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40 and over 40 calls in a day were employed to observe the differences in call making in both the genders. The sample was described in three categories, viz; casual, moderate and excessive users of mobile for calls and text messaging.

Our results indicate that female casual and excessive users make more phone calls than male casual and excessive users, while there is hardly any significant difference in mobile call making between the moderate users of both the genders.

On the other hand, the results indicate that males are more profound texters than females in almost all the categories of users.

RQ2: Are there differences in men and women in interpersonal motives for using voice call and text messaging?

The study collected data on six interpersonal motives as defined earlier, namely; pleasure, inclusion, control, affection, escape, and relaxation – in the context of both voice calls and text messaging.

Our data predict that male segment strongly disagrees (54%) with this notion that when they are interested to seek pleasure they opt for call making as compared to a relatively smaller proportion (31%) who opt for making a call when seeking for pleasure. Females are also not found to be very different from males in this context. The prime reason seems to be the call rates which are though not very high, but most of our population is not earning hands rather students, for them cost for pleasure seeking matters.

On text messaging for pleasure, the results indicate that most of our population (65%) agrees to that they opt for SMS use. However, males have been found to be heavy users of text messages for pleasure seeking motive as compared to females.

For the interpersonal motive of inclusion, our results show that majority (65%) of both males and females opt for making a call to their friends. But, 28% of both the genders could not to judge their opinion on this. In gender difference perspective, the male segment of our population has been found to be making more voice calls than females in order to talk to or be with someone.

On the other hand for text messaging, the results point out that majority (75%) opts for text messaging to gratify their interpersonal motive of inclusion. Furthermore, as compared to females (60%), male (99%) send more text messages when they need to talk to someone.

For interpersonal motive of relaxation, considerably large number (45%) of our population has been found to be using voice call option. For reasons to be explored, it has also been found that about 23% of our population did not opt for either agreement or disagreement rather was suffering from ambivalence. And both the genders were equal in size on ambivalence state. Nevertheless, female segment has been found to be using voice calls slightly more (45%) than males (38%) to satisfy their interpersonal motive of relaxation.

On text messaging pretext, data collected indicates that a good number of respondents (65%) opt for SMS to chill out. We could not find out any significant difference between the genders on the use of text messaging to relax.

Interestingly, about 60% of both the genders have been found to be uncertain in their feelings whether they do opt for voice call to gratify their interpersonal motive of ‘control’ which was operationalized as to gain compliance or obedience from friends and people around when they ask them anything to do. Only 33% of the respondents have agreed that they opt for voice call to gain obedience or compliance from their friends, of which males (46%) are greater in size than females (21%). The picture has not been very different in text messaging as about 53% of the sample was confused about their action. We could not observe any significant difference in gender usage of text messaging for this interpersonal motive.

When affection motive is investigated for gender difference in context of both voice call and text messaging, it is revealed that females (91%) prefer text message to show affection while males (77%) like to make a voice call to show love and care to their dear ones. Though males have not been lesser in size (80%) who wish to convey affection to their friends and family through text, however, conveying their affection through voice calls is their preferred mode of communication.

With regard to ‘escape’ as interpersonal motive, we have found a confused response as a handful number of the respondents (30%) opted for ‘don’t know’ option. For voice call, we have found clear divide among the respondents, of almost same size, opting for a voice call and not agreeing to making a voice call to gratify their interpersonal need of ‘escape’. There is no significant difference of gender variable on this variable.

Same response has been found in text messaging in both the genders. An ambivalent response to whether they opt for text messaging to gratify their interpersonal motive of ‘escape’, and same almost equal divide in their responses as we observed voice call option.

Besides above variables, the study attempted to know the quantum of calls made, received and text sent and received on average in a day by the both the genders. For all the categories, three classes have been constructed: causal, moderate


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