Online Gender Differences Emerge

    October 16, 2008

Differences in Internet behavior are emerging among men and women, specifically the impact of their online community memberships, frequency of Web surfing, and their diverging reading habits, according to researchers at the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

An analysis revealed that one in seven Internet users who visit online communities, such as Facebook, said their online activities are reducing their involvement with offline counterparts "at least somewhat," a response reported by three times as many males (21.5% compared to 7.3% of females).

More than half of Internet users (55%) said they "feel as strongly" about their online communities as they do about their offline communities, 60.3 percent of men felt that way compared to 47.4 percent of women.

Men are more likely to meet in person with some they meet in an online community; six in ten have done so compared to half of women.

"It’s not a surprise that women are more cautious meeting up offline," said Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication’s Center for the Digital Future. "The greater inclination of men to connect with their online community members is a trend we’re watching."

Researchers also found emerging gender differences in Internet surfing frequency and online reading habits. Men are more likely than women to surf the Web "at least daily" (53.5% to 40.5%).

Gender reading habits are also different. Women spend two hours more each week with books offline. Men make some of that up, spending an hour and a half more reading online newspapers, magazines and books.

"Visiting online communities and social networking sites is still an evolving experience for most Internet users, but we’re already seeing gender differences of this type in online use," said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. "These experiences will be major factors in social communication as relationships over the Internet increase."

The findings are based on annual surveys conducted among 2,000 American households.