Cameron Conaway wonders why men are more willing than women to share personal information on the Internet.
A new study has shown that men are more likely than women to share their phone number, physical address, geographic location and political and religious affiliations on social media sites. The market research company uSamp surveyed only 600 social media users, which isn’t really enough to draw good conclusions, but for the sake of discussion let’s assume that this study was error-free and garnered the same results after studying 600,000.
While this study will surely be used to help companies target ads and direct traffic, what does it reveal when viewed through the lens of gender?
One revelation according to those I spoke with might be that the fear response higher in women in physical reality is the same in virtual reality. Though the Internet feels safe, the bridge between virtual worlds and physical worlds can be a short one. There are plenty of stories detailing how male stalkers, rapists and murderers have used social media information to track down their female victims. If the fear response theory is correct, it means that the level of physical vulnerability and the willingness to prey on physical vulnerability significantly impacts how men and women engage in the virtual world. Businesses are sure to capitalize on this. Viewed from a criminological angle, this reinforces what we already know and what MSNBC’s To Catch a Predator helped show the masses: Men are more dangerous criminals on the Internet, too.
Regarding the political/religious information, this could show that perhaps men feel less threatened to show this information (in terms of job opportunities, etc.), or that women want to play a more neutral role lest they be judged. Either way, it reveals something about how gender alone can influence things like power, responses to authority and trust.
There are many ways to dissect what this study might mean, but, and especially in response to those who believe gender differences in 2012 are created constructs, one thing is sure: gender differences exist even behind the seeming anonymity of computer screens.
Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video