Men and Women Use The Internet Differently

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that while nearly equal numbers of men and women now use the Internet, usage can vary greatly between genders. Men tend like the experience offered by the Internet and the information it makes available; women like the Internet for the communities and human connections it enables.

How Men and Women Use the Internet brings together findings from several surveys conducted in 2002 and 2005,with a total survey sample over 14,000 respondents in 2002 and 6,000 in 2005. Among the study’s findings:

  • The proportion of men and women using the Internet is roughly equal (roughly two thirds of respondents), although women still lag slightly behind men overall and in most broad categories of Internet activity. Black women and women under 30 generally outpace mail peers, while the percentage of older women using the Internet is dramatically behind older men.

  • Men are more likely to perform online transactions than women, particularly those which might have unpredictable outcomes (bidding on auctions, trade stocks, etc.). Men are also more likely to use online banking and pay bills online.

  • Women tend to use email in a more “robust” manner than men by writing friends and family, sharing news, planing events, and forwarding jokes and information. Women send and receive more email than men, and also cover a broader range of topics in email than men.

  • Men tend to use the Internet somewhat “more intensely” than women: they connect to the Internet more often and are more likely to have broadband connectivity.

  • Women are more likely to be satisfied with the role email plays in their lives, particularly in personal relationships.

  • Men are generally more willing to pay for digital content than women.

  • Men are more interested in technology than women.

  • Both men and women value the Internet as a gateway to information; however, men are more likely to use search engines aggressively and broadly, while women are more likely to focus on specific areas of interest and seek out information in a more layered way including online communities and email exchanges.

The study also found areas with little gender differentiation. Men and women are equally likely to use the Internet as a time-saving or reference tool, for instance to look up travel information, addresses, or phone numbers. Both genders use the Internet for a wide variety of activities, although women tend to outpace men in areas of religion, health and medicine, and (oddly) getting online maps and directions. The study also found men are more interested in technology than women, and value the internet for its breadth of experience and information. Women value the Internet for enriching their relationships, but are more concerned about its risks.

Huh. Well, maybe if I cut back on my email, drop off a few online communities, and stop using online maps, I’ll feel more manly! Or something.