by Hasna Haidar
Many of the things we enjoy in life we enjoy online. Playing, laughing, learning new things, connecting with friends and building new relationships.
It’s the same for both the sexes; we seek a combination of simple and complex pleasures: the hedonic, instant highs of consumerism through online shopping, the mood boosting properties of listening to music and watching funny YouTube videos, and the longer-term pleasures of interaction and relationship building over social media.
As for what yields the most “happiness”, however, it can be highly subjective. Exploring the nature of internet happiness, Carphone Warehouse carried out a survey of 2,002 UK adults (mean + SD age 47 + 17 years old) in November 2017, asking them to rank the online activities that make them most happy.
Overall, activities associated with entertainment and shopping (which offer more hedonic pleasures, gratifying the basic urges of the primal brain) had the biggest impact on our happiness across the sexes. However, when male and female results were separated, there were stark differences.
Men enjoy online dating above all
While the most gratifying online activity among women was “winning an eBay bid”, men stated that “online dating” gave them the most pleasure. Interestingly, among women, meeting a potential partner online didn’t even make the top ten. For women, online dating came in twentieth place, behind ordering a takeaway and managing money online[i].
|Top 10 activities that make men happiest online||Top 10 activities that make women happiest online|
|1. Online dating sites (79%)||1. Achieving the winning bid on eBay (80%)|
|2. Obsessing over a new music video on YouTube and replaying it 100 times over (79%)||2. Instant messaging with friends and family (80%)|
|3. Achieving the winning bid on eBay (76%)||3. Discovering online discount codes for your favourite retailers and saving lots of money (79%)|
|4. Finding the perfect meme/gif and sharing it with everyone (74%)||4. Looking things up that interest you (78%)|
|5. Looking things up that interest you (73%)||5. Discovering the best deal through price comparison sites: from booking hotels to finding a great insurance deal (77%)|
|6. Getting a message from an old school friend on Facebook who you haven’t heard from in years (73%)||6. Discovering cheap fun days out from websites like Groupon (74%)|
|7. Discovering online discount codes for your favourite retailers and saving lots of money (73%)||7. Finding the perfect meme/gif and sharing it with everyone (71%)|
|8. Browsing new bands/tracks through Spotify (71%)||8. Browsing new bands/tracks through Spotify (71%)|
|9. Discovering the best deal through price comparisons: from booking hotels to finding a great insurance deal (70%)||9. Obsessing over a new music video on YouTube and replaying it 100 times over (70%)|
|10. Reading funny tweets about a TV program you’re watching (70%)||10. Getting your comment retweeted or liked by someone you love or admire (69%)|
Why do men enjoy online dating more than women?
While the study didn’t delve into the thinking behind the respondents’ choices, one reason men might enjoy online dating significantly more than women could be down to the way the different sexes approach dating.
For example, men and women don’t use Tinder in the same manner. A 2016 study into user activity on Tinder showed that men tend to cast their net a little wider, in the beginning at least. They’re more likely to ‘swipe right’ than women and tend to filter their preferences after establishing a match rather than before.
Why do men take this blanket approach? A January 2016 literature review might have uncovered the answers. The review looked at the gender differences in online dating[ii] and found that men “exhibit a positive attitude” towards it, seeing it as an efficient way to meet people. Their interest is in being as productive as possible, even when it comes to something as personal as dating, which could explain their catch-all behaviour.
The researchers also found that men preferred “short-term romantic relationships with a low level of commitment” within the environment of online dating, while women used the sites to find friends or a potential marriage partner. They also found that men are more active users of online dating sites than women – although it should be noted that the researchers attributed this gender imbalance to the fact that men outnumber women in most IT contexts anyway.
While men are prolific users of online dating sites, and prefer to pursue short-term opportunities within them, The Harry’s Masculinity Report[iii] found that men felt mentally more positive if they were in a steady, long-term relationship, concluding that “relationship stability is an important anchor for many men”. It would seem that while men do value enduring relationships, online dating is not where they ultimately go to find them.
Even in modern-day dating, old-school stereotypes [Editor: or perhaps ‘archetypes’] prevail. When it comes to the ideal type of person they’d like to commence a relationship with, both sexes look for one that can provide the biggest chance of success and fulfilment. For men, this means prioritising physical attractiveness and, specifically, a youthful look (with the logic that female fertility is affected by age, and therefore older women reduce the chance of children). For women, this means prioritising socio-economic status and older men (with the logic that older men are more financially stable and therefore more able to provide for a family).
In their quest to secure a partner – whether in the short-term or in the long-term – both sexes are known to adjust their profiles (even to the point of fabrication) to cater for what the opposite sex might be looking for. Men emphasise their personal interests and assets, overstate their height and misrepresent their online dating goal (aligning their short-term goal closer towards women’s longer-term goal), while women enhance their photos and underreport their weight and age.
Winning online dating
Interestingly, while the sheer number of men on the sites might suggest men gain more romantic success compared to women, the review was inconclusive. Some studies suggested women fared better; others said men were better off; and some felt both sexes were equally successful. In the world of online dating, it turns out the chips are stacked in no particular way at all.
So why do men rate online dating far higher than women do?
When you consider the short-term, commitment-free approach men take to using online dating sites, it’s clear they’re giving themselves a deliberately pressure-free experience. In comparison, the quest for finding a viable long-term partner means women have more at stake.
It would seem that, when it comes to online happiness, everything hinges on mindset.
About the author
Hasna Haidar is a digital researcher and writer, exploring the impact of online activity on happiness and wellbeing.
[i] Managing money online rather than in person or over the phone