Women are catching up to men on the Internet

Men continue to pursue many Internet activities more intensively than women, and that men are still first out of the blocks in trying the latest technologies, according to a wide-ranging study examining the way men and women use online services.

However, at the same time, there are trends showing that women are catching up in overall use and are framing their online experience with a greater emphasis on deepening connections with people, according to the study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project titled, “How Women and Men Use the Internet,” which was released Thursday.

Some highlights from the report show how men’s and women’s use of the Internet has changed over time.

• The percentage of women using the Internet still lags slightly behind the percentage of men. Women under 30 and black women outpace their male peers. However, older women trail dramatically behind older men.

• Men are slightly more intense Internet users than women. Men log on more often, spend more time online, and are more likely to be broadband users.

• In most categories of Internet activity, more men than women are participants, but women are catching up.

• More than men, women are enthusiastic online communicators, and they use email in a more robust way. Women are more likely than men to use email to write to friends and family about a variety of topics: sharing news and worries, planning events, forwarding jokes and funny stories. Women are more likely to feel satisfied with the role email plays in their lives, especially when it comes to nurturing their relationships. And women include a wider range of topics and activities in their personal emails. Men use email more than women to communicate with various kinds of organizations.

• More online men than women perform online transactions. Men and women are equally likely to use the Internet to buy products and take part in online banking, but men are more likely to use the Internet to pay bills, participate in auctions, trade stocks and bonds, and pay for digital content.

• Men are more avid consumers than women of online information. Men look for information on a wider variety of topics and issues than women do.

• Men are more likely than women to use the Internet as a destination for recreation. Men are more likely to: gather material for their hobbies, read online for pleasure, take informal classes, participate in sports fantasy leagues, download music and videos, remix files, and listen to radio.

• Men are more interested than women in technology, and they are also more tech savvy.

Still, the survey show that men and women are more similar than different in their online lives, starting with their common appreciation of the Internet’s strongest suit: efficiency. Both men and women approach with gusto online transactions that simplify their lives by saving time on such mundane tasks as buying tickets or paying bills.

Men and women also value the Internet for a second strength, as a gateway to limitless vaults of information. Men reach farther and wider for topics, from getting financial information to political news. Along the way, they work search engines more aggressively, using engines more often and with more confidence than women.

Women are more likely to see the vast array of online information as a “glut” and to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest, including health and religion. Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process—one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal email exchanges.