A Washington Post article claims not only that men and women use the Internet differently, but that Internet use may magnify sex differences.
Writer Delphine Schrank quotes psychologist Susan Pinker, who says the Internet "will increase the skills that you already have." Schrank continues,
Preliminary evidence suggests as much, she said. Violent computer games didn't encourage violence in boys, but violently inclined boys were naturally more attracted to violent computer games. And, she pointed out, women latched onto emoticons, those colorful smiley faces and such, as bonding devices for use in Internet chat rooms. Such use, Pinker said, was an organic outgrowth of women's natural tendency to use language socially.
As opposed to men's tendency to use language for what, exactly? Eating steak? Football? Online researcher Gordon Hotchkiss offers a more nuanced view. Faced with a slow-loading page, women were more likely to sit and wait, while men navigated away. But, says Hotchkiss, the men and women in his studies "eventually ended up in the same place, on the page or scanning the same material."
Psychiatrist Gary Small, meanwhile, think that the Internet might bring the genders closer because it requires the same skills of everybody. Others worry that "its fractured, viral, weirdly random world" might just make us all dumber. But Schrank's intro is, perhaps, the most telling part of the article:
Say you're halfway through a turkey sub when you have a sudden urge to Wikipedia the word "crush," because your nephew was bashfully asking what it meant, which reminded you of when you, too, were 13 and tripped on a chair on your way to the blackboard right in front of the girl with the pigtails, whom you suddenly feel like searching for on Facebook — after all these years — so you log on to your homepage, which is blitzed with photos from Nick's mushing trip in Alaska, including one with a comment about you that just landed in your inbox, where you have five urgent messages from Bob about a football blog that you click to and really mean to finish reading, but only after you're done smacking the ball on that pop-up Orbitz ad, the one with the baseball bat, once, twice, six times and . . .
Why did you leave your sandwich for the computer again?
Is this your brain, the male brain that is, on Google?
This is perilously close to the "men are so dumb, we can't trust them to do anything" rhetoric so popular in beer and fast food commercials. Whatever the Internet does to our brains, let's not let it become yet another forum for stupid stereotypes.
The Online Male Takes a Licking and Keeps on Clicking [Washington Post]