“Everybody puts their whole life on facebook”: Identity management and the online social networks of LGBTQ youth

Elizabeth McConnell*, Bálint Néray, Bernie Hogan, Aaron Korpak, Antonia Clifford, Michelle Birkett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and young adults almost inevitably “come out”, or self-disclose their identity to others. Some LGBTQ youth are more uniformly “out”, while others may disclose to some groups but not others. This selective disclosure is complicated on real name social media sites, which tend to encourage a unified presentation of self across social contexts. We explore these complications with a cohort of LBGTQ youth on Facebook (N = 199, Mage = 24.13). Herein we ask: How do LBGTQ youth manage the disclosure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to different people in their lives? Further, are there identifiable differences in the online social network structure for LGBTQ youth who manage outness in different ways? Finally, how do LGBTQ young people describe their experiences on Facebook? We answer these questions using a mixed methods approach, combining statistical cluster analysis, network visualization, and qualitative data. Our findings illustrate patterns in network structure by outness cluster type, highlighting both the work involved in managing one’s online identity as well as the costs to (semi-) closeted individuals including a considerably lower overall network connectivity. In particular, outness to family characterized LGBTQ young people’s experiences on Facebook.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1078
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

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Keywords

  • Context collapse
  • Facebook
  • LGBTQ youth
  • Network visualization
  • Outness
  • Social network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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