Why Women Comment Less on Blogs

Why do men comment more on blogs than women do?   That’s the question Ann Handley at Marketing Profs asked in this blog post.

She was referring specifically the comments on her blog, but wow what an interesting discussion it sparked on the differences between men and women and posting blog comments.

I spent quite a bit of time reading through the comments on Ann Handley’s blog and an especially spirited discussion of the subject on Pickled Politics blog. 

Here’s what I found were the most common factors as to why people feel men comment more on blogs than women do:

1 – Biological differences – Testosterone in men and Cortisol in women may contribute to men’s desire to engage in conflict and women’s desire to avoid it..

2 – Behavioral differences – society has different roles and expectations for the sexes.  Men and women often have different communication styles.  This may affect why they post comments and what types of comments they post and are attracted to.

3 –  Time – women say the number one reason they use the  Internet is to save time.   They say they simply do not have as much time to read and or post comments on blogs

4 –  Stereotypes –  gender stereotypes of both men and women seem to be playing strong parts in the responses readers have come up with to explain the lack of female blog commenters. 

5 – Audience mix – your blog subject matter or business industry may simply have a higher ratio of men interested in or working in that subject.

6 – Hidden/mistaken identity – women sometimes hide their gender for fear of everything from not being taken seriously to personal safety. 

I’ll explain a little more about each and include actual comments (which were just too great to be missed).

Biological differences – Men have higher levels of testosterone.   From way back in the cave man days they have been physically conditioned to take on challenges, fight for food, status, mates.    This increased “aggression” and desire to establish hierarchy may lead more men to comment on blogs in order to “establish” themselves and their hierarchical status.  Here are some comments that were posted.

both sexes read discussions but it is mostly men who respond and get into slagging matches over controversial issues.

Why is this the case? Common explanations I’ve been told include: ranting and raving online is how men get their feelings out; women prefer to read and evaluate while men prefer to shoot first and think later (no pun intended

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Men like to win, even when they have nothing really at stake.

Women handle stress differently than men.  When women experience a stressful or traumatic experience, their higher levels of Cortisol cause them to have a more vivid memory of that event.    Women may “internalize” the hurtful “attacking” nature of some of these comments instead of letting them “roll of their backs.”    This may cause them to avoid these types of conflicts in the future.  Here’s what one commenter had to say:

For me, I get into online arguments occasionally but not nearly as often as I actually disagree with something I’m reading. I don’t think it’s so much that I fear being seen as aggressive as that it tends to get all the way under my skin if whomever I’m arguing with gets insulting towards me, and I will be resenting and fuming over it for days afterwards. Sometimes I’ll suddenly remember some online slight that happened years ago and fume over it all over again. It’s an extremely unpleasant emotional state to be in and every time it happens I swear off online debate for a while.

Behavioral differences – Society has different expectations and roles for each sex.  Men and women have different communication styles.   While women can be just as competitive as men, they may try to “get to the top” by building consensus, strengthening relationships, being a good listener.  Men may try to “get to the top” by establishing their credentials, status, and hierarchy.   Women often try to build community while men often go it alone.  I know this is bordering on stereotypes, but these are just broad differences in the expectations of behavior.  They are changing all the time as women’s role in society changes, but some of these expectations die hard.   

Just from my own experience, women often comment in “support of” the blog post.  If they do disagree, it’s about promoting their point of view rather than attacking the bloggers point of view.   Once again big generalization here, but in my experience, that’s been the case.

Men often want to challenge the blog post view.  They want to establish their view as the “correct” view.    Or, if they do support the point of view, they want to bring some knowledge to the table that allows them to “gain credibility” in the eye of the blogger and other readers.

I think that’s sometimes the heart of the matter – why do blog readers post comments?  What is their deeper motivation?   Is it to assert their dominance and status?   Is it to gain credibility in the eyes of the other readers?  Is it to connect with the blog author and other readers?   

Ask yourself – does anyone actually change their mind after reading someone elses point of view or arguement?

Probably not.

As women are far more perceptive than men, they have already recognized this, but because women have a deep down need to change people on a one to one basis. They also have realised that it is complete waste of time taking part as no one is going to change due to a few words on a blog

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I think it depends where you hang out online. The majority of the blogs I read (and comment on) are written by women. We support each other and our real and blogger friends tend to visit (and commment) on the blogs that we frequent. It feels like a community of sorts. I admit that I read a lot of blogs where I don’t comment. But I think that is a lot about whether I’m there to learn or to participate. If I have nothing to add and my comment would just be, "neato, thanks" then I often don’t. I have no idea if I’m typical.

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This feels really similar to the raising-your-hand-in-the-classroom studies they’ve conducted in sociology/anthropology. Feminist victories aside, I think that socialization plays a large role in blogs and other types of social networks. This is a really interesting study done published the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/yourvoice/classroom_talk.shtml

While this is a stereotypical conclusion, it’s interesting to see what they observed: In a study of children aged 2-5, parents interrupted their daughters more than their sons, and fathers were more likely to talk simultaneously with their children than mothers were. Jennifer Coates says: "It seems that fathers try to control conversation more than mothers… and both parents try to control conversation more with daughters than with sons. The implicit message to girls is that they are more interruptible and that their right to speak is less than that of boys."

I was raised to always voice my opinion, which is probably why I’m a frequent blog-commenter, for better or for worse! ;-

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I may be stating the obvious, but to have debate you need to make a stand, voice your opinion then be prepared for an onslaught of opposition.

Generally (and I mean generally), women are passive in nature and may well state their opinion but perhaps feel intimidated by the hords of male voices shouting them down.

You have to be pretty thick skinned to voice your opinion in the first place (especially when it comes to politics) and women, loving creatures that we are, perhaps don’t enjoy the fierce debates as much as men do. Not saying there aren’t exceptions to the rules of course.

Time – flat out – women say they just don’t have time to post comments.

I agree with Monica that perhaps women are just too busy multi-tasking to post. [For example, I’m a mid-30s marketing professional working at a pretty demanding full-time job and enrolled in a pretty demanding MBA program part-time.] A straw poll this morning indicates most of the women I work with are just as busy, and we just don’t have time to engage in the on-going debates generated in blogs, however interesting they appear to be.

Stereoytpes – There is a fine line between proven gender differences and stereotypes.   I think understanding gender differences can help explain “trends” of why perhaps more men post comments than women, but I think it’s easy to make broad assumptions that simply may not be correct – about women AND about men.

My blog is coming up on its second anniversary and I’ve noticed the same trend with more comments from men than women. I’m always intrigued by the insightful and thoughtful dialogues from men on my blog, which has more of a "soft" topic matter than many men in my worklife might be interested in, so I’m grateful for that feedback. I’m very encouraged by those statistics, whether or not they’re skewed in any way, because to me it proves that men are indeed interested in personal awareness and effectiveness as it relates to personal leadership, accountability and growth.

Maybe I’m still reeling from the comments I got from my last (male) boss before I struck out on my own as a "soul" proprietor in my coaching and training business. He’s the one who told me that what I did as a leadership trainer for our manufacturing consulting business was "touchy-feely crap that makes me puke."

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I hate to say this but I think some men have an innate need to make everyone listen to everything they want to say where women have learned the art of introspection and only sharing those key, important nuggets.

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1. Women would definately like to contribute their thoughts/views on Political issues…but how many men out there are willing to take them seriously ??

2. The above is major turn-off for many aspiring women commenters on Blogs.

3. Now the ones who arent discouraged, their views are labelled as being FEMINIST, even if it has no sense anything to do with women issues.

4. Men who side by women, are labelled as Feminist Fancies….which makes (some) think twice before supporting a women’s argument every again

Audience Mix – Could it simply be that more men are interested in the subject matter or field?

I wonder whether men more than women read blogs, and so the 2:1 male-to-female ratio of commenters merely reflects the blog audience–or, more specifically, perhaps the audience of the DailyFix.

Hidden Identity – some women prefer to keep their gender a secret with screen names that don’t include their name or include initials.

There’s always the possibility that many of the blogger replies are actually coming from females under a male pseudonym. Given the harassment women receive online (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12727877/ ), many choose to present themselves as male in forums where there are likely to be a lot of men participating. After all, unless it’s a dating site, does it really matter what gender a poster is?

Wow – awesome discussion and some really interesting insight.   Thanks to Ann Handley at Marketing Profs for lighting the fire.

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20 Responses to Why Women Comment Less on Blogs

  1. Absolutely agree.
    Women differ in their feelings. They comment less if there’s nothing to say, when men are eager to put in a word of their own even if all is said already.
    This is how we percieve the world around us.

  2. Ok Holly, at the risk of contributing further to the stereotype — I feel compelled to post a comment. I did check with my partner first though, and she agreed that my post was not testosterone induced. 🙂
    I completely agree with you that men do tend to dominate conversations. And I do think much of the accompanying failure to listen comes from socio-economic conditions in their upbringing. It’s one of the reasons so few men are good communicators “off camera” (you know, when other people aren’t around.) And come to think of it, very few are good even when they’re “on camera.”
    However, I do believe that it’s a blending of behavioral style and societal factors that are at work across the genders.
    Women can be “drivers” just as much as men. Sure their expressions of that communication style can be somewhat moderated by societal factors. And yes, a woman in business with a strong directive style may be called different names than a man would be.
    But the fact is that many women business owners have a driving/risk taker style but they’ve been gifted with a different type of upbringing (not getting away with saying everything under the sun like boys.) And that combination makes many women business owners and professionals better communicators — in general.
    Still, put a group of intelligent women together in a competitive environment (like The Apprentice TV show) and you’ll see them eat each other alive just like competitive men do. Their core behavioral style comes out.
    Anyway, back to the comment issue … when you’re writing on topics that address issues of interest to business leaders, innovators, or owners (as you do here Holly) — you’re inevitably going to have fewer comments on average from both men and women. I believe that’s just the nature of the topic. You have an audience of achievers looking for an edge, not necessarily a conversation.
    And there you have yet another short little comment from yet another man. 🙂

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  16. Great site, thank you for this post. I am very curious why I get a hundred or so views a day and hardly any posts, so this is good to know! Most of the people who comment on my blog about women entrepreneurs are women who are connected to me personally, not a lot of women I don’t know unless they want to be featured on my site, which is great, but I want to figure out how to reach them and create more of a community. I would love to explore this more. I read a bit of “Everything you need to know about blogging” and the author (a woman) said that you get more comments if you (author) also comment/reply…I’ve been trying that. Best to you! I’ll be back.

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