Study Details Gender Differences in Net Use A new study finds that men and women use the Internet in different ways. The founding director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project explores the study's findings.
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Study Details Gender Differences in Net Use

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Study Details Gender Differences in Net Use

Study Details Gender Differences in Net Use

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

It's been a long time since the typical Web surfer wore thick glasses and a pocket protector, but for many years men did outnumber women on the Internet. No more: A survey released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that women--young women in particular--are just as likely to log on as men.

But there are differences in what they use the Internet for. For example, men use e-mail mostly for business. Women are more likely to use it to connect with friends and family. Women go to medical information sites more than men do, while men research consumer reports. Women worry about creeps in chat rooms; men are more adventurous. And without reinforcing gender stereotypes too much, men are far more likely to check sports scores, and guess who visits MapQuest?

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. If you feel like you're bucking a dominant Internet gender trend, give us a call. Are you a man who downloads directions or a women addicted to stock quotes, or do you fit the pattern perfectly--a guy who never checks MapQuest or a woman who's always chatting with her friends? Our number is (800) 989-8255; that's (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail address,

Later in the program we'll talk about coal mine safety and give you the latest on Jack Abramoff's guilty plea here in Washington, DC.

But first, we'll explore the survey's findings with Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. He's with us here in Studio 3A.

And nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Mr. LEE RAINIE (Founding Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Before we get to this gender stuff, I was amazed at the sheer number of Americans who are using the Internet.

Mr. RAINIE: One of the big stories of modern life is how the Internet has been adopted in a very short amount of time. As you were saying, 10 years ago, very few Americans--about 12 to 16 percent--were online. And in the next decade, up to about two-thirds of adults were online and 87 percent of teen-agers now use the Internet. It's one of the fastest-adopted technologies in American history.

CONAN: And you see an older pattern amongst older people; age 65 and older, a majority of men use the Internet, a majority of women do not.

Mr. RAINIE: Well, and a standard story in technology adoption is that younger people like to experiment with things. They have an adventurous spirit. Older people love the technology that suits them well and has served them well through life, so older Americans prefer their telephones to the Internet. Older Americans love their books to the online information they can get. But we do see that a significant portion of older Americans are now online; about a third of men who are 65 and older are online; about a quarter of women who are 65 and older are online.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. When you look at all of your data, are there more similarities than differences in the way men and women use the Internet?

Mr. RAINIE: That's the other big story that's happening here. The Internet has gone totally mainstream in the past decade, as its composition has changed and as the services online have changed. A big part of that, of course, is the adoption of broadband, which makes all the things the people do online a lot more attractive and appealing and a lot easier to weave into the everyday rhythms of their life. So, for instance, if you go down the list of things now where men and women pretty much show the same profile, five years ago when we first started researching it, men were much more likely to research products. Men were much more likely to find information about where to live or where to find a new job. Now women have completely caught up to men in their intensity and the interest of those kind of activities online.

CONAN: Hm. Sixty-eight percent of men are likely to be the manager of the family computer; 45 percent of women do the same. This seems like one of the larger gaps.

Mr. RAINIE: Men are a bit more comfortable playing with technology and having some experiences with it. Women are a little bit more wary of it, although it's a significant thing that almost half of women now are the custodians of the computers in their homes.

CONAN: (800) 989-8255 if you'd like to join us; (800) 989-TALK. E-mail us: I guess programs like this one use e-mail when we didn't maybe 10 years ago. Let's talk with Jeff, Jeff in Tallahassee, Florida.

JEFF (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hey, Jeff, you're on the air.

JEFF: Sorry. Thanks for taking the call. I was just going to make the comment that, being a 27-year-old who owns his own company, fortunately, I depend heavily on the Internet. I have to do a lot of traveling, and I definitely use MapQuest to get around, because my business is commercial advertising and it requires me to travel a lot in the Southeast with my car. So I definitely, I guess, have bucked the system and I depend heavily on MapQuest and...

CONAN: Go ahead and ask for directions.

JEFF: Yeah. Also, I have two e-mail accounts; one is for personal, to connect with friends, and one's business. I even divvied those up. I'm wondering if that's--you know, is that an age thing? I mean, is the younger class--younger generation--are we experimenting more with, you know, getting outside of the stereotypes that have plagued us for, you know, generations now?

CONAN: Lee Rainie?

Mr. RAINIE: It's very much the case that younger Americans are very enthusiastic about the Internet, even those who are not now online, because a very small proportion say they expect to be online at some point soon in their lives. And it's something that actually characterizes their life. It's part of their identity. So Jeff's story is a very typical one.

One of the most important things that, as a social researcher, I've seen as far as the impact of the Internet is that it is changing the notion that people have of the place where they are. Jeff's experiences about where he works and how he works--he doesn't necessarily have to be in an office anymore. He travels around a lot. He's connected with his customers, his clients, with his prospects in ways that were impossible just 15 years ago.

CONAN: Hm. I was curious, though, Jeff--you said you downloaded MapQuest directions for your business. Do you do the same when you're going to your mother-in-law's new house?

JEFF: Well, that's a good question. Actually, no, I don't. When it's more personal, I tend to trust my instincts or whoever's with me.


JEFF: But I'm not afraid to pull over and, you know, ask somebody directions at a gas station or something. And, you know, I just have always been amazed that men have this reputation for not doing that.

CONAN: Thanks, Jeff, for the call. Good luck with the business.

JEFF: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Appreciate it.

Let's try Judy. Judy's calling us from Scottsdale, Arizona.

JUDY (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hey, Judy, you're on the air.

JUDY: Yes, hello. How are you?

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

JUDY: Good.

CONAN: And did you have something to add to the conversation?

JUDY: Well, yes. I use the Internet in many different ways. I am a senior, plus-65, and I think the only thing that's kept me from using the Internet, which--I switched over about two or three years ago--was a fast dial-up.


JUDY: And once I had that--which is costly--there are no holds barred. And I think that that may be one of the reasons that seniors aren't using it as much as the younger people, because the way we spend money, I think, differs as well.

CONAN: Judy, I think 55 is early middle age, but...

JUDY: Sixty-five.

CONAN: Sixty-five, all right. Late middle age. Lee Rainie, then.

Mr. RAINIE: There have been adoption patterns for different generations of the Internet. Younger people either were introduced to the Internet at school or through their jobs, in many cases. For older Americans, it's often been the case that family members, younger family members--their children or their grandchildren--are the ones who finally convinced them to go online because, `Grandma, I'll begin sending you pictures,' `Grandma, we can start trading e-mails,' and it's a way for older Americans to feel a lot more connected to the younger ones who are farther away. So that...

JUDY: I agree with that; however, none of that was the case in my situation. I think what was the case in my situation was finally convincing myself that spending the extra money to go on a fast cable connection was going to be--was going to pay off. And it certainly has. I research vacations. I research information in my field, which is psychological counseling. I access information on maps, of course; print the map when I'm going someplace so that when I get there I know where I'm going to go and how I'm going to get there.

CONAN: Judy, good luck on the trip.

JUDY: Thank you. Bye-bye, now.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. Bye-bye.

I wonder--the report describes men as being more intense users of the Internet than women. What does that mean?

Mr. RAINIE: They are a little bit more likely to access the Internet and their e-mail accounts multiple times a day. They're a little bit likely, on a typical day, to spend more time online. On any given day, there are a slightly larger number of men online in America than women. But in all of those dimensions of Internet use, women are caught up to men in the most dramatic kinds of ways. It's a technology now that women are not afraid of. And a big story that I think is similar to the one Judy tells is the adoption of broadband. People who use broadband are very different kinds of users from dial-up users. They build the Internet much more directly into their lives. They think of that connected computer as the information utility of their life. Rather than turning to books or cookbooks or newspapers or stuff like that, they now are thinking that this one machine can give them a lot of the information they need.

CONAN: And it--we're making a lot of fun out of the asking for directions stuff but, in fact, the difference in percentages in your study of men and women who download from MapQuest is, in fact, not all that great.

Mr. RAINIE: It isn't. It's statistically significant, but everybody loves maps online, just as everybody loves e-mail. There are some differences that are worth noting a little bit, but the bigger story here is the mainstreaming of the Internet and the norming of it in American life.

CONAN: Let's get Anna on the air. She's calling from Richland Center in Wisconsin.

Anna, you there?

ANNA (Caller): Yes, I'm here. Hi.

CONAN: Hi. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

ANNA: Hi. Thanks. I had two comments. One was my younger sister, Rosie, is 13, and I'm not sure what her friends use the Internet for, but I imagine it's not what she does. She has gotten addicted to playing online euchre from my dad and my brother. You know, it's kind of like sheepshead and it's cards, and she's totally addicted to it. So that's what she uses the computer for. It's not talking to her friends or e-mailing her friends. She just plays euchre all the time.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

ANNA: So I thought that was kind of funny, kind of unique. And I'm in college and I'm 21, and I think I'm probably--I feel like I'm the only person in my generation who is not completely obsessed with the Internet. And all my friends in college--guys and girls, I think, in school--have this thing called Facebook, and they e-mail their friends in other schools and put up pictures and they use the Internet a lot to communicate. And I feel kind of left out, but I think I'm the only person in my generation who isn't completely obsessed with talking online and e-mailing and putting up pictures and all that type of thing.

CONAN: Lee Rainie, according to your study, Anna's right: She is the only woman in America her age who's not doing that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAINIE: Pretty much. I always wondered whether it was just data mistakes, but there actually are a few college students out there who are not crazy about it. Actually, in our research, the single strongest predictor of whether someone is an Internet user or not is whether that person is a college student or not. If the answer is yes, there's a high likelihood that that person uses the Internet.

CONAN: And young women, women Anna's age, are online more than men that same age.

Mr. RAINIE: That's right. Older teen-agers and younger women are more likely than their male counterparts to be online. It's one of the most interesting stories that we're picking up in our data.

CONAN: Anna, good luck.

ANNA: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

ANNA: Yup, you're welcome. Bye-bye.

CONAN: We're going to be talking a little bit more about the findings of the study on Internet use and if there is, indeed, a gender divide on the World Wide Web. If you'd like to join the conversation, (800) 989-8255. E-mail us:

Back after the break. I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We're talking today about a new study on Internet use put out by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that finds that, A, most of us, almost all of us, are using the Internet, and that women have caught up to men on use of the Internet, though they use it a little differently. If you'd like to join the conversation, our number is (800) 989-8255. Our e-mail address, Our guest is Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

And let's bring in another voice now. Xeni Jardin is a tech culture journalist and a contributor to NPR's "Day to Day" program. She joins us from our studios at NPR West.

Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

XENI JARDIN (NPR Contributor): Hi, Neal. Great to be with you.

CONAN: Why do you think we're seeing these kinds of trends in Internet usage?

JARDIN: Well, you know, with all due respect to the Pew project and to the data in the survey, which is really interesting, every time I read reports like this, I get this uncomfortable feeling like putting on an itchy wool sweater. I mean, when you read lines like `Women are finally catching up to men on the Internet' and `Men like the Internet for the experience it offers; women like it for the human connections'--we've been around for a while, and it's like I feel like I'm looking at a survey from the early days of cars, like `Women are finally starting to drive cars.' Well, why wouldn't we be? And, to me, the most interesting thing in this study is how many of the percentage points are just off by 1 or 2; there's not that much of a difference between the genders. That, to me, is the big story here--the closing of that gender gap, to the extent that it ever existed.

CONAN: Well, I may be emphasizing the gender difference more than Lee Rainie did. He also talked about the important news here in terms of the normalization of the Internet and how close, indeed, the genders are.

JARDIN: And mostly I'm just afraid that some marketing consultant is going to listen to this program and say, `Well, the Internet needs to be more pastel now,' you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Pastel wouldn't be so bad.

JARDIN: You know, it wouldn't be so bad, but seriously, women have been around online for a while. Women have been around in technology for a while. And to me, the more interesting thing is looking at--you know, the big-picture data doesn't always tell everything. Women are gaming more. Women are using the Internet for different kinds of information, for different kinds of interaction. And the behavior on the Internet between men and women is not all that different.

The other thing that I think is really interesting here that--the study doesn't go into this a whole lot, but when I'm looking at these different data points, I'm thinking about how mobile technology is changing all of this. And I wonder if perhaps some of these trends that you gentlemen have just been discussing have to do with the fact that young women are now more and more walking around with BlackBerrys, with Sidekicks, with Treos, with PDAs that are connected to the Internet. So being connected to the Internet--the Internet isn't just this amorphous thing. The Internet is a phone that you carry in your hand. It's a PDA. It's a Sony PSP. And now more of us can walk around in the real world living our daily lives doing practical things, doing silly things, doing whatever it is away from desks, away from our living room, and we can be connected.

I carry a phone with me that is connected to my e-mail and to the Web and to my blog and to instant messaging. It's with me pretty much all the time. And I don't know that that's such a strange thing anymore.

CONAN: Well, as an incipient geezer, I'm nostalgic for the days when I was the only one talking to myself on the street. Now everybody is. Let's get some more listeners involved in the conversation. This is Karen; Karen calling us from San Antonio.

KAREN (Caller): Oh, hi there.

CONAN: Hi there. You're on the air, Karen.

KAREN: Thank you very much for taking my call. This is--I love your show, and this is a fascinating topic. My input is that I more see it in terms of personality type than gender because we've recently been going through transisto-Myers-Briggs(ph) and looking at the four characteristics of personality. And I don't fit the female thing at all because of my personality type. And I love the Internet. It's just amazing. So...

CONAN: So it may be more personality types, extroverts, like the Internet?

KAREN: Exactly--well, no, not that they like the Internet; that they use it, say, for relationships or for connecting...

CONAN: I see.

KAREN: ...or for chatting, which I don't do. I like to, like, find information, and, I mean, it's great for that.

CONAN: Lee Rainie, I wonder, is there any way to ask questions--next survey maybe?

Mr. RAINIE: There are wonderful research projects that are now ongoing that look at personality type and Internet use. The HomeNet Project at Carnegie Mellon has been looking at extroverts and introverts and found that extroverts are more extroverted online and introverts use the Internet in different ways. I think the bigger story that this conversation helps bring up is to shoot down some other stereotypes about Internet use. In the early days I think everybody thought the Internet population was a monolithic population that performed in the same way and cared about the same things. Now people really are taking online the things that matter to them offline, and they're using new tools and new devices that Xeni was describing.

In some respects, one of the most important stories about the impact of the Internet is that people are no longer aware in many cases that they're using it. And that's when a technology is its most powerful.

JARDIN: I would agree with that; that the most important thing that we can glean from this information is the fact that the Internet is becoming invisible. It's becoming a background part of our daily lives. When my mom and my aunts and grandparents and older relatives and younger relatives are all using this, it's like--well, it's like asking someone, `How do you use oxygen?' Well, you breathe it; it's just there. And it's the same way here. You know, it's no longer something where you have to be connected at a university or at your work. It is cheaper, it's easier for people to do this, and it's not so complicated to connected. You just turn on a button and it's there.

And, again, I also think that another undercurrent of this study is looking at economics, looking at access. Say five years ago, maybe 10 years ago, the people who had high-speed connections were people maybe who were working at big companies or students who were at colleges that had campuswide broadband connections. Well, now it's easier for more people to have that kind of always on Internet. And when you're not paying by the minute and when it's not painfully slow, you're going to use it more.

CONAN: Karen, thanks very much.

KAREN: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

Let's go to Joe, and Joe's calling us from Sacramento in California.

JOE (Caller): Hello.


JOE: My comment is that the Internet--you're talking about as if it was all just one technology when, in fact, there are many, many technologies that make up the Internet. And I think their study seemed to have focused on e-mail and maybe Web surfing, but what about some of these newer technologies, like Voice over IP, podcasting and blogging? Are those technologies being adopted equally by men and women?

CONAN: Lee Rainie.

Mr. RAINIE: Those technologies tend to show the same profile as the early Internet. They tend to be skewing a little bit more male, a little bit more upscale. But over time and over a relatively quick matter of time now, women and folks who don't necessarily have high levels of income and don't have the world's largest amount of education are quickly adopting. That's the story that's happened with blogs, that's the story that's happened with blog readership. And so my guess is that for podcast, for Voice and other technologies, these things will go mainstream relatively quickly, and the population that uses them will look like the rest of the Internet population.

CONAN: Joe, thank you.

JOE: OK, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

And let's see if we can talk to Will, and Will's with us from Bloomington, Indiana.

WILL (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

WILL: My question is rather about Internet security and getting a lot of things set up. I go to school at Indiana University, and for one of my classes, we just did a security study, where we found that 60 percent of college students are using unsecured wireless networks. And I wonder if there is a gender gap between young men and women as far as getting their security things set up, getting their hardware configured in a proper manner.

CONAN: Did you go that far? Did you get--hey, here's a hip word. Did you get that granular, Lee Rainie?

Mr. RAINIE: I'm not aware of any research that shows major gender differences and awareness of security problems and security concerns. There is widespread lack of knowledge about the problems that can happen online that occur on wireless networks, occur behind firewalls in people's homes and stuff like that. There was a wonderful study done by the National Cyber Security Alliance and AOL showing that when they asked people do they have these kinds of protections in their homes, lots of people, especially the men, said, `Oh, yeah, we do. We're as protected as we could be.'

CONAN: Sure. Yeah.

Mr. RAINIE: But then they actually walked them over to the computer in their house and started looking online to see what was on their computer and what kind of software they had, what kind of threats they were open to. And most people didn't know what was on their computer and didn't know how open they were to the very kind of threats that the caller discussed.

CONAN: Will, thanks very much for the call.

WILL: Thank you.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you, Xeni Jardin, obviously men and women are using the Internet for business more and more, both as entrepreneurs and as customers. Do you find any--as the Internet become more and more atomized, going to ever-smaller interest groups, you know, obviously you can find anything for anybody.

JARDIN: You can. One of the interesting success stories of the Internet for women might be looking at how the Internet makes small businesses available, whether you're talking about people selling antiques or tchotchkes or crafts or whatever it is online on auction sites, like eBay, or, you know, other ways that the Internet enables small businesses, there's other data out there that's very interesting about the number of women-owned businesses, small businesses, growing in America. That's a story there.

You know, I also wanted to comment on something that a caller said a moment ago. We're looking at, in this study, the Internet as e-mail, the Internet as Web browsing. When we talk about services like Facebook or Friendster, these social networking sites, where people share pictures or stories about each other and connect socially by way of the Internet, you know, is a blog a Web site, or is a blog a way for me to communicate with people? Is instant messaging when I'm sending photographs to friends and family members--is that a communication tool, or is that entertainment?

The lines start blurring. And I think, again, Facebook is a great example, where you've got pictures, you've got links, you've got groups. You've got a lot of different kinds of activities happening in one place. And I think more and more this sort of clustering of different kinds of behavior, where it's not necessarily just practical or just entertainment or just experience or just communication, it's all of those things, just like daily life mashes all of that up.

CONAN: Yeah. Thanks very much. Xeni Jardin, appreciate your time today.

JARDIN: Thank you.

CONAN: Xeni Jardin is a tech culture journalist and a contributor to NPR's program "Day to Day." She's co-editor of the award-winning Web blog BoingBoing. And she joined us from the studios of our NPR West in Culver City, California.

We've asked another expert to join us to analyze the differences in men's and women's Internet usage. Kevin Burke is with us. Kevin is performing in "Defending the Caveman," a one-man show that explains human relationships in terms of Stone Age culture. Men are hunters focused on a single goal at a time. Women are gatherers, multitasking like made for the good of us all. Kevin joins us from the studios of member station WFYI in Indianapolis.

Very good of you to be with us today.

Mr. KEVIN BURKE ("Defending the Caveman"): Oh, thank you, Neal. How are you doing?

CONAN: I'm doing well. And I wonder, if you're looking at the results of this survey, does this sound familiar? Did anything jump out at you?

Mr. BURKE: Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. And you touched on it right there in my intro. Back in the cave times, men were hunters, women were gatherers. And because of that, we've evolved with different sets of instincts in order to ensure survival. And the Internet is a perfect example. Men use it as a tool to hunt. I'm looking for a cherry '72 Nova. I go on the Internet, I look through eBay; there it is. Women, as gatherers, use it to gather information. They go to MapQuest. They use it to stay in touch with their friends. They keep the community together.

And it goes also partly to the way men and women use language. Men will speak--and this is backed up by studies. Men will speak 2,000 words in a day. The average woman will use 7,000. And it makes perfect sense because when you're out gathering, you would keep up a constant stream of conversation with the women around you in order to make sure that nobody got picked off by a predator. Well, if you're seeing echoes of this community bonding on the Internet, it absolutely makes sense.

CONAN: Well, what's the Stone Age equivalent of checking sports scores?

Mr. BURKE: Oh, well, it's, `How many bison did you bring down today, Thag(ph)?'

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURKE: Yeah, for the hunter, the Internet is a spear. You use it as a spear to hunt things down.

CONAN: We're talking about different usages of the Internet between men and women. We're talking with Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and with comedian Kevin Burke. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And I wonder, Kevin Burke, if you seemed--you know, men and women eventually learned how to share the cave to some degree. Will they ever learn to share the computer?

Mr. BURKE: Oh, absolutely, because we use it for different purposes. The whole thing that you brought up about MapQuest, it's absolutely predictable in the caveman paradigm. Hunters, men, tend to be territorial, and that's why men never like to pull over and ask somebody else for directions. Who wants to invite a total stranger into your little rolling territory at the exact moment you've proven you couldn't hunt down your destination? See?

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BURKE: So men will tend to avoid MapQuest if at all possible, whereas women are gatherers. They look to gather the information; that's the first thing they'll do--is go to MapQuest, gather some information about where we're going and then off we go.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Jenny. Jenny's with us from Charlottesville, Virginia.

JENNY (Caller): Hey, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

JENNY: Two things: I want to say a quick hi to Lee Rainie. Lee, you probably don't remember me, but I used to work for Alfonse(ph) long ago when you worked for The Daily News, I think.

Mr. RAINIE: Hi, Jenny.

JENNY: Just thought I'd say a quick hello.

CONAN: You should send him an e-mail sometime, Jenny.

JENNY: That's right, now that I know where I can find him, right?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

JENNY: And the other thing I wanted to just mention--and this is going to make me sound like a fuddy-duddy, but when I lived in northern Virginia, I used to belong to this quilt guild that's quite large. And this was back in the infancy of the Internet. These crazy quilters were, like, on top of everything. They were using the Internet long before anybody else was. They were communicating. They were sending patterns and templates, and they had all these big, you know, groups where they would, you know, send out what they had to do, and then they'd all work on it and then ship it out and, you know, exchange things online and pictures. It was quite impressive.

CONAN: Hm. And does that come under--I'm not sure whether that comes under hunting or gathering.

JENNY: Yeah, really, or stabbing with a needle, something like that.

CONAN: Something like that, I don't know.

Mr. BURKE: Oh, it's definitely a gathering activity, keeping the community bonded together.

JENNY: Well, yes, that's certainly so. And what I found really interesting with that group, for the most part, was, you know, it wasn't just old people or anything, but there was a lot of, like, that Yankee sensibility, and it was just something they were doing because it made sense and because, you know, just they were always out seeking the next greatest tool, whether it was a tool they held in their hands or a tool that they were able to use, you know, to expedite whatever it was that they were doing. So just thought I'd put that in the pipe there.

CONAN: Yeah, but it's also, Jenny--would seem to me that the Internet was particularly applicable to doing things like, you know, sending patterns back and forth. It was very useful for that task.

JENNY: Yeah, exactly, because even if you faxed things, you would get inaccuracies after--you know, things went from one thing to the other. It would change maybe by a millimeter or whatever. So they could send everything very accurately that way.

CONAN: Gee, just--thanks very much for the call, Jenny.

JENNY: Thanks a lot.

CONAN: And I'm sure you and Lee will be back in touch. But just before we go to the break, Lee Rainie, I did want to ask: She used a word there--fax. Has anybody done a survey on fax usage and how much it's gone down in the past 10 years or so?

Mr. RAINIE: I'm not aware of any. My guess would be--have to have gone down significantly, although people can use their computers to send material to fax machines.

CONAN: Yeah, but there was a period, you know, 10, 15 years--this was magical, this was expanding. We took fax--questions by fax on this program, and I don't remember the last time we gave out a fax number. Anyway, that'd be interesting, too, to find out about the next time.

We'll be back after a break with more on this question. If you'd like to join us, again, our phone number is (800) 898-8255; that's (800) 989-TALK. And we'll also be talking about the guilty plea today entered by lobbyist Jack Abramoff that could lead to some--several offices on Capitol Hill. And we'll be finding out more about coal mine safety as well. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Here are the headlines from some of the stories we're following here today at NPR News.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges. Prosecutors accused Abramoff of exerting improper influence on Capitol Hill and of conspiring to defraud Indian tribes, which had hired him. We'll have more on that coming up.

And rescue crews in West Virginia continue efforts to save 13 coal miners trapped underground since yesterday morning. There's been no signal from the miners. Air quality tests show very high levels of carbon monoxide. And, of course, there will be the latest on both those stories later today and much more on "All Things Considered" from NPR News.

Today we are talking about a study issued last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. We'd like to thank Lee Rainie, the founding director of the project, for joining us earlier today. Our guest is Kevin Burke, a comedian performing in the "Defending the Caveman" at the Rosslyn Spectrum.

Is that in Indianapolis?

Mr. BURKE: No, that's actually right over the river in DC, the Rosslyn Spectrum.

CONAN: OK, good. What are you doing...

Mr. BURKE: Right over in Virginia.

CONAN: You're at WFYI in Indianapolis. What are you doing there?

Mr. BURKE: Yeah.

CONAN: It's a long commute.

Mr. BURKE: Yeah, this is home. I spend the front of the week at home, and I spend the weekend in DC doing the show...


Mr. BURKE: ...which, incidentally, the Web site,

CONAN: Just in case anybody out there uses the Internet. But here's an e-mail that we got from Jason: `My girlfriend and I play World of Warcraft as an online game all the time. There are surprising numbers of couples playing this game with us. I'm 28; she's 26. The game is communal and could be very cooperative. Perhaps that's the appeal to women as opposed to a first-person shooter, like Doom.' And this seems to come right out of the caveman.

Mr. BURKE: Yeah, absolutely. You know, as I've been listening, it struck me that one of your callers, a woman, said that she got more into the Internet as soon as faster connections were available. And this absolutely makes sense because women actually have more connectors between the right side and the left side of their brains. They can literally think faster than men and do more things at once. And I would be interested to see if the rise in women's participation on the Internet parallels with the expansion of superfast connect speeds.

CONAN: There does seem to be a correlation to that, as we were hearing earlier. Here's another e-mail, this from Laura: `Years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the fascinating things that happened was that the men in the family got on e-mail to let everybody know about my diagnosis. Now it's usually the women in my family who would phone each other and spread news like this, but instead it was my dad on e-mail. As a result, I received many e-mails from uncles, male cousins, etc., expressing their support and care. These are people who would never bother to pick up the phone to talk to me, an interesting reformation of family dynamics going on with the Internet.' Apparently as long as the men can sit remotely and type something, they can get over that personal communications problem.

Mr. BURKE: Well, yeah. I mean, that certainly puts a little bit of distance between it. But, also, I think because in the cave times, it was the hunter's job to protect the cavewoman and their children. So what I think they may have been doing at that point was sort of banding together, all the hunters in the tribe, as quickly as possible in order to just kind of close the circle and protect the camp because that's what the hunter did. The hunter would narrow his focus and concentrate and protect the tribe, and the woman, being aware of everything else going around, would make sure he didn't get killed while he was doing it.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Margee(ph); Margee calling us from Sacramento.

MARGEE (Caller): Hi. My name is Margee, and I'm 61. And I'm very computer literate. I do lots of stuff with my computer, including Web sites and all that stuff. And I was thinking back, when I was listening to your--the totality of your show, I was thinking about how hard it was for me to start. I was working for a high-tech company in the Bay area, and I had to use a computer, and I was really stuck, really scared of it. And I am a smart person. I didn't know what was going on until I remember my mother was very phobic about technology. She always said that computers were going to take over the world, and they were going to take all the jobs away from everybody and basically they're evil. And so I had to get over that. I had to sort of train myself to recognizing that they were not evil; they're a tool. Now I love them. I do everything in the world with them. But I'm kind of the only person in my family that I know that's in that that does that--that does use computers that much.

Mr. BURKE: I'm with you. I think the Internet wants to steal my soul.

MARGEE: (Laughs)

Mr. BURKE: And I'm just inherently suspicious of it, but then I'm an old fuddy-duddy, so I guess that's natural.

MARGEE: But my ...(unintelligible) in my soul already. Maybe that's...

Mr. BURKE: Oh!

CONAN: But all this stuff about technology, Kevin, as if swords are ever going to replace spears.

Mr. BURKE: Yeah, exactly.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BURKE: Exactly.

CONAN: Margee, thanks very much for the call.

MARGEE: Thank you.

CONAN: We appreciate it. And good luck.

MARGEE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And let's see if we can get one more in--Fritzy(ph); Fritzy calling us from Tucson, Arizona.

FRITZY (Caller): Hi. This is Fritzy.


FRITZY: I sound funny because I'm getting over a cold. I'm also an old fuddy-duddy; I'm 67. And I became a single parent many years ago, 30-some years ago. I find that I met almost exactly your profile of men without giving up femininity, but I'm wondering if I have become a hunter-gatherer, yeah.

CONAN: More of a hunter than a gatherer.

FRITZY: Yeah, or both, you know. So I'm just interested--it'd be interesting to do some kind of study.

CONAN: Well, as the leader of her small tribe, Kevin Burke...


Mr. BURKE: Yeah, yeah. Fritzy was doing both jobs. The hunter-gatherer characteristics are not absolute. You know, the predictor would say that women love to shop because it's a gathering activity, whereas a man just wants to run in, hunt down a new pair of underwear and run back out. Boom! Done. But with my wife and I, we're actually the opposite. I like to shop, I like to look at things, I like to touch the fabric and feel the texture. And this admission is probably going to get me fired, but my wife is the one who wants to run it, get it and run out.


Mr. BURKE: So while these trends are not absolute, we do tend to find them as parts of couples in general.

CONAN: Fritzy, thanks very much, and continued good luck on the Internet.

FRITZY: Thanks. Bye.

CONAN: Kevin Burke, thank you for joining us today, and good luck with "Defending the Caveman."

Mr. BURKE: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Kevin Burke is a comedian. His version of "Defending the Caveman" is at the Rosslyn Spectrum, and he came to us from the studios of member station in Indianapolis today; that's WFYI.

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