Social media can be a self-esteem black hole for women. In her new book, author Alice Marwick explains why.

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(Image credit: Archives)

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(Image credit: Archives)

Women spend 30 percent more time on social-networking sites than men do. Apart from being a time-suck, women's online activities are judged more harshly than men's. That's what Fordham University professor Alice Marwick found while researching her new book, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age (Yale University Press). In a chat with MC, she explains the benefits and costs of online branding as a female.

MARIE CLAIRE: Is all that time women spend online worth it?
ALICE MARWICK: It is if you're spending time on the right things. You can't depend on a company to take care of your career anymore, so it's important to differentiate yourself from other candidates by promoting your work. One hundred likes on a picture of your dog is going to have no impact on your life, but companies often hire individuals with heavy blog presences.

MC: Why do you say there's a higher standard for women to live up to online?
AM: We know that women are judged on appearance in the workplace in a way that men generally are not, and the Internet has amplified that because it allows for a broader audience. Women must adhere to normative standards of beauty and fashion or they're criticized.

MC: But everybody posts selfies! Where should you draw the line?
AM: The more attention you get online, the more you value that attention and want more. I've seen a lot of women build a personal brand around their appearance. While I understand why women might do that, it can also be quite dangerous. It's important to distinguish images for a professional context rather than posting thousands of selfies with cleavage and bikinis. You should be able to do that, but if you do, you're going be taken less seriously.

MC: Where are women winning online?
AM: Women get positive feedback in stereotypically feminine areas: fashion, motherhood, and food. In this "women's realm," women are allowed to speak without criticism because they're talking about things that are deemed less important. I worry women are relegated to places where they won't be attacked but where they're not able to explore broad interests outside of

Allison Yarrow

Allison Yarrow is a journalist and the author of 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and The Failed Promise of Gender Equality, to be published by Harper Perennial in June.