Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Growing Gender Gap in Social Media...

This might not come as a shock to those who know the habits of The Nerfherder and The Nerfherder Gal, but apparently a new study described today in BusinessWeek confirms that women are far more active on social-networking websites than men.

When it comes to Facebook, MySpace and their ilk, "among twentysomethings, women and men are just as likely to be members of social networks... But we found that young women are much more active on these sites than young men. And men above 30 — especially married men — aren't even joining social networks... Married women, however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between ages 35 and 50 are the fastest-growing segment, especially on MySpace."

So what gives?

First of all, the article correctly points out that men tend to be early adopters of the new social media websites, but women, who tend to be more social creatures both online and off, then spend more time actually engaging with other people on those sites. Of course this is something of a gross over-generalization, yet the statistics bear it out in the aggregate.

Second, the article attributes the cause of this gender gap to, of all things, video games? That seems to be quite a stretch. While it's true that there's intense competition for men's attention online (perhaps more so than women's), the notion that men are spending all of their time on World of Warcraft so that they don't have any time for Facebook is absurd. I have equally as much time in front of a computer screen as does the Nerfherder Gal, yet you don't see me cyberstalking my "friends'" pictures for hours on end. Men just aren't as interested.

Third, the fact that the gender gap is most obvious in men-over-30 seems to suggest that single men are more likely to network those who are married. But it's not as if married men crawl into a cave! Contrary to what The Nerfherder Gal may tell you, married men still like to maintain some form of minimal social existence, and the article's claim that they are not hanging out on social networks at all clearly overlooks the fact that the over-30-crowd's non-use of those sites is more generational than it is gender-based.

In the end, the differences between how the sexes use online social media is only a reflection of the same gender gap that exists between the sexes more generally in life. Women may be more social creatures, but I, for one, like to believe that I have more important things to do than cyberstalk mild acquaintances on Facebook.

Now please excuse me while I spend the next few hours analyzing statistics on my fantasy baseball site.


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