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Is your Twitter sexist? Male political journalists are 4.9 times as likely to be retweeted than female ones (Credit Image: Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA Images)

Do yourself a favour and rebalance your Twitter account

Is your Twitter account sexist? It is if you only follow and retweet men. Writing for the New Statesman, Mary Ann Sieghart sets out the gruesome facts:

“The social media data analytics company Lissted carried out a detailed analysis to try to find out why British female political journalists are less influential on Twitter than men.

“It has discovered that there were 4.9 times as many likes and retweets for male political journalists than female ones across Twitter as a whole during the election campaign, and 4.3 times as many retweets from “influencers”: people and organisations who are widely followed in the Twittersphere.”

Is this purely a function of the relative number of male and female political journalists?

“…there are fewer women than men in British political journalism: the analysis found a ratio of 37:63. But even if you correct for this difference, men are still disproportionately listened to and then disproportionately amplified. Other factors, like numbers of followers and numbers of tweets, only explain a small part of the difference too.”

Reading this, I thought I’d better give my own Twitter account a quick audit. It turned out that I was following roughly four times as many men than women. Oh dear.

This isn’t out of any conscious or (I think) unconscious bias. I tend add to my follow list on an ad hoc basis. If I see an interesting retweet in my timeline, I may well follow the originator. If that’s how most people follow new accounts, and men get retweeted disproportionately, then they’re likely to get followed disproportionately, thereby biasing the whole process against women.

If I see an interesting retweet in my timeline, I may well follow the originator. If that’s how most people follow new accounts, and men get retweeted disproportionately, then they’re likely to get followed disproportionately, thereby biasing the whole process against women.

How to put this right? At the risk of sounding mansplainy, a bad way would be to follow a job lot of female tweeters for no other reason than they’re female. After all, you’re unlikely to retweet accounts that you’re not really interested in.

A better way is to go through your follow list – and unfollow (or mute) those that you don’t get much from. This is worth doing anyway and if your list is as lopsided as mine, it’ll be mostly men that you clear out.

You’ve now made some room for some new accounts. So, if your existing follow ratio is biased toward men, then bias your new follows by the same ratio towards women. With this rule in mind, you’ll be paying more attention to potential follows as-and-when they crop-up in your reading – and, with time, your account will become more balanced.

And remember, the only person you’re doing a favour for is yourself. By making a bit more of an effort to seek out interesting accounts that don’t get the promotion they deserve you’re enriching your Twitter experience, not diluting it.