December 29, 2005
Men Want Facts, Women Seek Relations on the Web
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO -- Internet users share many common interests, but men are heavier consumers of news, stocks, sports and pornography while more women look for health and religious guidance, a broad survey of U.S. Web usage has found.
The study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project to be released on Thursday finds men are slightly more intense users of the Web. Men log on more frequently and spend more time online. More men also have access to quick broadband connections than do women.
"Once you get past the commonalities, men tend to be attracted to online activities that are far more action-oriented, while women tend to value things involving relationships or human connections," said Deborah Fallows, a research fellow at Pew and author of the report.
A larger number of men surf the Internet for pleasure, with 70 percent acknowledging they go online to pass time, compared with 63 percent of women. Men are more likely than women to listen to music, view Webcams and pay for digital content.
But women are catching up in several areas measured by the survey, and intensive use by younger women suggests some of the gaps will continue to narrow.
Already, women are heavier users of e-mail, often going beyond the matter-of-fact responses of male correspondents to use e-mail to share stories, solve issues and reach out to a wider network of friends and family.
Both genders look to the Web as a font of information and as an efficient communications tool, said Fallows in an interview.
Overall, the percentage of men and women who use the Web are nearly equal. Roughly 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women report making use of the Web, up from 20 percent of the U.S. population Pew found in 1995, when men made up 58 percent of the online audience.
WEB RISKS, JARGON PUT WOMEN OFF
Over the past decade, men have proved more willing to engage in riskier encounters or transactions, such as joining chat rooms, bidding in online auctions or trading stocks. Auctions attract 30 percent of men versus 18 percent of women.
In addition, 21 percent of males confess to looking at porn online compared with just 5 percent of females, the Pew survey has found. This area is notoriously difficult to measure and may be underreported by survey respondents, Fallows said.
Meanwhile, 74 percent of women seek health or medical information online, far more than the 58 percent of men who do so. Thirty-four percent of women seek religious information from the Web versus 25 percent of men. Such differences mirror gender differences in the offline world, Fallows noted.
Men go online more frequently, as 44 percent use the Web several times daily versus 39 percent of women.
Partly this reflects their greater broadband access, requiring less time to wait for dial-up connections. Seventy-eight percent of men have broadband connections at work versus 69 percent of women, although the broadband gender gap narrows among both sexes at home.
In addition, the survey found men feel more in control of their computers. Far more men fix their own computers, for instance. Men also are more likely to be aware of the latest technology jargon -- terms like spam, firewall, spyware, adware, phishing and RSS.
GENDER GAP, OR GENERATION GAP?
Based on responses by thousands of U.S. Web users to a questionnaire covering 90 areas of online activity, the Pew report finds some of the gender differences to be generational. Girls and young women are more facile with technology-intensive activities than older generations of women appear to be.
Eighty-six percent of women ages 18-29 are Web users, compared with 80 percent of men. But 34 percent of men 65 and older use the Internet, compared with 21 percent of elderly women.
By 2004, 22 percent of teenage girls had started a blog, or online journal, versus 17 percent of boys. Yet boys are far more likely to download music or videos, with 38 percent of boys saying they watch online video versus 24 percent of girls.
"Teenage girls may do more or less than boys of certain activities, like downloading, but the important message is that the technology is not standing in their way," the report states. As younger women grow up, women are likely to overtake men in terms of the overall audience, Fallows predicts.
The report cites data from surveys performed by Pew from 2000 through 2005. Some 6,403 respondents took part in 2005.