Why Don’t Men Leave Comments?

Like many of you, I read a lot of blogs, and lately I’ve noticed a trend: it seems like I see a lot more blog comments from women than from men. I wondered if it was just my imagination. This weekend I decided to investigate.

That’s right, peeps. IT’S SCIENCE TIME.

Method

I have 24 blogs that I read on a regular basis. For each of them, I simply grabbed the latest post and counted up the number of comments by each gender. (This took a surprisingly long time.) A few notes:

  • I counted commenters, not comments. So if a person left multiple comments on a post, I only counted that person once.
  • I did not count comments from the original poster.
  • Commenter gender is not always obvious, but I did my best. If they linked to a profile or website that gave their gender explicitly, I used that; if not, I judged by first name. No doubt I made a few errors, but I think by and large I guessed right.
  • If I couldn’t figure out the gender (“Anonymous,” gender-neutral name, etc.) or if the individual did not fit neatly into either gender (e.g. transgender) I put them into the “Unknown/Other” category.

I ended up with a total of 245 commenters.

Results

My suspicions were confirmed:

Men vs. Women

Explanation

I don’t have a single good answer for what’s causing this, but (lucky you!) I’m full of ideas. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Here are the possibilities as I see them.

Maybe women just comment more than men as a general rule. I have no idea if this is true or not. It’s the most obvious explanation, but that doesn’t make it the right one.

Small sample size. 245 commenters on 24 blogs is not really a huge sample. Maybe these imbalances would even out if I just had more data. Based on my own anecdotal experience, though, I suspect that’s not the case.

Biased sample. Now we’re getting to the heart of it. These 24 blogs are not a random cross-section of the Internet; they are the 24 blogs that I read regularly, which means they are skewed toward my interests. Specifically, all 24 are related to writing in some way: they are written by agents, editors, authors, etc. What does that have to do with gender? Two ideas. First…

Women are more into literary discussion than men. It’s no secret that publishing is a mostly female industry; something like 85% of the publishing world consists of women. Moreover, women read more than men, especially when it comes to fiction; women read four times as many novels as men. So maybe men just aren’t into this sort of thing anymore (and isn’t that a cheerful thought). Or…

Maybe men don’t comment on women’s blogs. Largely for the reasons I just mentioned, 19 of the 24 blogs in my sample were written by women. Maybe that has something to do with it; that is, maybe men aren’t avoiding these blogs because they’re about books, but because they’re written by women. I don’t have data at the moment, but anecdotally I’ve noticed a striking feature: blogs written by men seem to be much closer to 50/50 in the comments, whereas blogs written by women tend to be skewed much further toward all-female commenters. “Anecdotally” is always a dangerous word, of course, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see a trend.

Conclusion

As you see, I have no shortage of possible explanations, but I don’t think I have enough data for a conclusion yet. What are your thoughts? Have you noticed anything like this in your own experience?

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11 responses to “Why Don’t Men Leave Comments?

  1. Actually, I have another suggestion. It’s quite a generalisation of men vs women, but that doesn’t mean it may not have merit. (This could probably be investigated by going back to your original data.)

    Men tend to refrain from joining a conversation unless they have something new or different to add. They will speak up if they have a differing opinion, different information, or a complementary viewpoint. They are less likely to speak up just to say, “I’ve noticed that as well.” or “You’re right.”

    Women tend to like to show support by agreeing with each other. Listen to a group of women talk, and you’ll notice lots of “You’re right!” and “Oh, I’ve had that happen to me!” and “That reminds me of a time when I did the same thing.”

    So I would wonder how many of those comments were actually conversation and how many were “I agree” comments. I wonder what would happen if you were to take out all the latter. There may be a closer correlation between male and female commenters.

  2. I think your last couple observations/conclusions, paired with Jo’s comments, are spot-on.

    I never thought about this before, though! Very interesting.

  3. I think that you are in fact a girl. You read a lot, you comment on blogs a lot (presumption based on the fact that you read a lot of blogs), You write a blog and you want to get published. So using a very loose statistical analysis and the statistics you’ve given us. I find it 90% likely that you are in fact female.
    %Disclaimer – some one or all of the above claims may be joke related.

  4. Another possibility – more women are reading the blogs you sampled, especially those written by women? if 64% of your viewers are women, and 64% of comments are by women, where’s the bias?

    Of course, good luck trying to figure out reader demographics that include lurkers…

  5. Pingback: Monday’s Top 5 | The Happy Logophile

  6. My subscribers seem to be split down the middle give or take a few but not all my subscribers comment. I find that men seem more likely to comment on my writing tips, flash fiction or short story posts than on my more conversational type posts so perhaps it is really down to content.

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