As a society, we like to look at the differences between men and women. How do we act differently? Are our brains different? We are obsessed with what separates ladies and gentleman. Often we focus on biological or social differences. So, I wondered, do men and women act differently online? The answer may surprise you.
I looked at two separate studies. The first, comes from Coastal Carolina University where researchers first used a focus group to come up with questions to ask in a paper pencil survey of college students. They then administered the survey to 268 students taking introductory health in a convenience sample. The results of the survey concluded that women were more than their male counterparts to spend more time on Facebook than they wanted, feel closer to their Facebook friends than people they see daily, feel addicted to Facebook, and feel that Facebook causes them stress. After examining the lengthy results, the study contains many graphs, charts, and other visual aids, I was not satisfied. My biggest complaint is the method of research, a convenience sample is no substitute for a randomized sample. A convenience sample is asking people who are easy to find and talk to and leads to biases. I was also dissatisfied with the questions asked. It’s quite possible that women, being more social, are more stressed out, feel addicted, and become dissatisfied with their body image after being on Facebook, but what can that tell us about their behavior? There were some positive results of the study, women feel closer to people they talk to on Facebook, and are more confident in their social lives. Despite being dissatisfied with the questions and the study as a whole, I am now convinced women and men may act differently online.
In the second study I looked at, researchers looked at how men and women acted differently on Tinder. Now, the study acknowledged that, to begin with, men and women act differently when dating in general. Online was no different. The study measured users on Tinder by creating profiles and monitoring user’s actions and responses to them. These curated profiles were placed in London and New York, large hubs of activity, and saw differences in how users of Tinder use features like matching and messaging differently. They also examined how users of different genders presented themselves and managed their profiles. The results found that women are far more selective of who they like. While men match with many woman in order to increase the chances of finding a match, women take the opposite approach and swipe selectively secure in the knowledge that they will likely match with whomever they like. They also found that women spend more time on their profiles, while men are usually content with a brief description and a few photos. Interestingly, if men take similar time and effort into their profiles, specifically adding more pictures and a better description, they are likely to see greater results because women respond to this. A questionnaire was also used to collect data from Tinder users.
In looking at both studies, it is obvious, especially from the Tinder study that women and men may go into social media, and online in general, with different expectations. Women and men clearly behave differently online. In looking at results from the studies and their surveys, both looking at different sites and using different data collection methods, I feel that it is safe to assume that, on gender lines, people behave differently online. I would like to see more randomized studies and more studies using fake accounts to monitor others, to come to a fair conclusion. I would also be curious to see, in looking at sites like Tinder, if differing behavior online is merely reflective of differing behavior in the outside world, or if being online causes some of the differences.