the Internet continues to revolutionize dating for gays
at a faster pace than for heterosexuals is no surprise.
"Gay people are just early adopters of new technology
in general, especially when that technology allows them
to connect with one another," says Leyla Farah,
vice president of portal integration for PlanetOut Partners,
parent company of PlanetOut.com and Gay.com. But do
lesbians and gay men utilize the technology in the same
manner? How different are our experiences? Farah has
compiled market data about the way the sites' combined
6 million members behave online and, in particular,
the differences in how their male and female constituents
make use of online dating's various tools.
So how do lesbians and gay men date differently online?
I think on a general level men are much more adventurous
and more interested in poking around and seeing what's
there, whereas women will really take time and really
investigate possible partners or dates online. I find
that women tend to keep a lot of things private in their
profiles. On our sites, for example, you can mark pictures
as private, which means that you can only share them
with someone you're actually chatting with. Because
of security, women tend to take advantage of that feature
Is it true that women are more likely to write to people
whose profiles don't include photos?
That is true. That really points to the investment
that women will make in their online personae. They
will spend much more time than men in filling out every
piece of the profile. They'll actually fill in the essay
questions, which men rarely do. They will write long
essays and not include a [public] photo. And that's
markedly different than the behavior of men. For men,
pictures are really a deal-breaker.
I suppose there's no way to know whether gay men or
lesbians are more apt to meet up with one another offline.
No, but we certainly get letters from people who have
met, and there are trends. Women tend to be more drawn
to the topic areas of our chat rooms, so they will go
and chat about what it's like to be an ex-Catholic,
for example. In that environment, it's less likely that
you'll find someone in your immediate geographic locale.
So we've received letters from women who have moved
across the country to be with each other once they've
chatted for a year. And that's much rarer for a man,
because men have more topic areas by region. Men are
much more likely to sit outside of a room and just click
down the pictures and find someone local to chat with
on a one-to-one basis.
Do gay men tend to send more private messages than
Yes, I would argue that they do. Often men's chat rooms
will be populated with 99 men, but if you watch the
screens, they're not really scrolling very quickly because
the men aren't chatting in the rooms, they're chatting
with each other [in private message sessions]. For women,
that's not true.
Are lesbians and gay men more likely to be online at
different times of the day? For instance, do men go
online at night more than women?
You know, that's a very interesting question. Men actually
tend to be online more during the day. I think they
leave their Messenger on all day at work, which is something
that I think women wouldn't do. Women's chat rooms tend
to be much more populated in the evenings--when they
get home from work, I'm guessing. But men are on all
the time. And again, that points to the nature of the
experience for men. They'll go through a room and look
for someone they want to talk to and then send them
a message. So if you leave it on all day at work, you
can be getting these messages throughout the day.