New research out of Northwestern confirms what should be no surprise to most Internet users — men are more likely to share creative work online than women. While nearly two-thirds of men and women in the survey report that they participate in creative work online or offline, the gap emerges when considering creative work such as videos, photography, writing and the like that is posted online.
There are many possible reasons for such a gender gap. The one that jumps to my mind immediately lies in the differences between 18-year-old boys and 18-year-old girls (the respondent base was 1060 Northwestern freshmen). Boys at that age, to put it simply, have no shame. When I think of all the videos on YouTube of college-age guys performing “stunts” and the like, it completely dwarfs any videos from girls that age. Furthermore, girls at that age are very conscious of the image they present to others, and are likely to focus more on how they look and who their friends are then how popular their blog is. Eighteen is not exactly the most popular age for girls to go techy.
Another area this research touches on is perceived knowledge of the Internet, and specifically of the ways in which users can post their creative works. While sites like YouTube make posting videos as easy as pie, the idea of posting video will intimidate girls much greater than boys, who are more likely to spend the time figuring out the technology. This goes hand-in-hand with the (somewhat justified) idea than men are more technologically inclined than women. Research (including my own) has shown that women like using the Internet to communicate with their friends and use sites like Facebook more often and for longer periods of time than men. But once you enter the more technical side of the Internet, it is far-and-away a male dominated world. I read a lot of technology-based blogs; when you consider contributors, men outnumber women at least 3 to 1, and probably by a lot more.
A final consideration for why men are more likely to post content than women could be privacy related. As my research (among others) has shown, women are much more likely to be concerned about their privacy online. This is probably a result of early-on scare tactics that suggested that there were legions of men prowling the Internet looking for young girls to prey on. I guess it wasn’t such a bad thing really. I had many a run-in during the late 1990s with rather, um, direct men via AOL instant messaging. But there are certainly ways to share content online without revealing intimate details about your life.
I may not be a programmer or an expert on the Web, but I certainly know my way around the Internet and how various applications work. I am certainly adept at posting a variety of content online and can do so without having stalkers pop up at my front door. I think girls need to move past the stereotypes that science and technology are for men and get more involved in this thing we call the Internet.