LGBTQ teens who aren’t out engage with social media less

Photo: Public Domain

A recent study has explored the relationship between LGBTQ identified youths and how they use Facebook and other social media sites.

The study, succinctly titled, “Everybody Puts Their Whole Life on Facebook: Identity Management and the Online Social Networks of LGBTQ Youth” sought to look at how “outness” affects how LGBTQ youth engage in social media.

The outcome was, perhaps, unsurprising, with “outness” being a major factor in overall participation in social media.

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“The title of this paper was drawn from one of the illustrative quotes in this study, where a participant said she uses social media to ‘be nosy because everybody puts their whole life on Facebook’,” according to the paper, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Ironically, the participant who said that is one who behaves quite the opposite.

The paper continued, “In fact, it is possible that this participant commented that ‘everybody puts their whole life on Facebook’ precisely because she herself was more careful about what she shares online given potential negative consequences of disclosing her identity, which she went on to describe with respect to transphobic comments about her hands.”

Researchers worked with 204 youth and young adults age 19-28 who are LGBTQ identified and hailed from the Chicago area. The study group included a fairly diverse dataset, covering a number of LGBTQ identities and races.

Each participant was initially surveyed on how “out” they were, and to whom. After this, they were quizzed on how they used Facebook, and any positive or negative experiences they had using the social media website.

The study concluded that those who are not out engage less on social media largely over fears of how they will be perceived by family and peers, and fears of homophobic and transphobic responses on their social media feed.

Facebook has been challenged over the last few years over how well they protect user privacy, as well as their policy on “real names” that has led to issues for drag performers and the transgender community.

“In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-creator and CEO of Facebook suggested that, ‘having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity’,” said the study. “While Zuckerberg was referring to those who hide behind pseudonyms in order to troll or defame, he inadvertently trivialized those who have no choice but to manage multiple identities.”

The paper highlights some of its participants speaking on their experiences on Facebook.

One person, identified as a 24-year-old, black, cisgender lesbian, said “[I use Facebook] for talking to current friends, maintaining a relationship with old friends, and I will eventually get a separate page for my family to add me on.”

“I just feel bad about having the need to create a second page for simply talking to my family because many of them don’t accept my true well-being, that is, me being happily gay and seeing other people.”

One 26-year-old black transgender woman shared a negative experience that shaped her decision to not be especially out on the site.

In the study, she said, “One time I got my nails did and the nails were very pretty but someone commented negatively on the size of my hands.”

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