The Internet Talks Like A Woman

A girl texting on an iPhone on a dock.
A girl texting on an iPhone on a dock.

Long before “mansplaining” became a cliché, linguists observed that men tended to dominate public conversations. They hogged the floor, asserted more opinions, and interrupted more frequently than women. One study from 1975 found, for instance, that men were responsible for 96 percent of all interruptions in conversations with women. In the early '90s, some scholars hoped that the internet, with its promise of anonymity, would offer women more equal footing. But the fantasy proved short-lived. When linguists like Susan C. Herring at the University of Indiana looked at online discussion groups, they discovered the same old pattern. Despite anonymity, women posted less than men, received fewer responses when they did post, and struggled to influence the topic of conversation. Men were also more antagonistic (and worse, downright harassing), relishing the absence of rules, while women were more polite and considerate of others. Gender still influenced the way people wrote online.

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