Making Friends

Earlier findings had shown that men and women socialize about the same amount in MMOs - in terms of chatting and catching up with friends. What is very different among men and women is what they want out of those relationships. Women are more likely to want to form relationships where they can discuss their RL personal issues and can count on those friends for support. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to use the MMO space to form a support network (or probably in general). The following data help contextualize these earlier findings.

For example, in terms of what players chat about, men and women are equally likely to chat about current events or game-related issues.

But when we turn to personal RL issues, we see a much bigger difference. Women are more likely to chat about their RL personal issues with their online friends than men are.


We see the same trend when we ask specifically about friendships that have formed with someone players met online. For example, when we ask players whether they have become good friends with someone online, the gender difference is actually quite small. Most men and women have made good friends in an MMO.

Where they differ is how strong and personal those relationships get specifically in terms of how much transcends the physical-virtual boundary. In another question, I asked players whether they had ever told their online friends secrets or personal issues they had never told their friends in the physical world. Here we see that women are much more likely to share secrets with their friends than men are.


And thus, it is when we focus on the strength of relationships formed online where we see the largest gender differences. When we ask players whether their best friend is someone they met in an MMO, women are about 3 times as likely as men to say yes.

Thus, the story about gender and socializing is a bit more nuanced than simply that women like to socialize and men don't. In fact, both men and women seem to enjoy socializing - chatting and hanging out with friends. And both men and women often make good friends with others they meet online. Where men and women do differ is the kind of relationship they want. It appears that men are more likely to draw harder boundaries between their physical and virtual spaces; men are less likely to talk about personal issues with friends they have met online. On the other hand, women see a softer boundary between the physical and virtual spaces and are more willing to share personal issues with friends they make online.