The impact of social media for young LGBT people
The rise of social media has made it easier for people to access information and connect with other like-minded people. It has become essential to the lives of young adults and teens: 45% of teens say they use different apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. Social media provides young people with wide range of opportunities to maintain social connections, share emotional support, and get information about health.
Some therapists have found that social media may help to improve mental health by boosting self-esteem and providing a source of emotional support. Many young people find online connections they could not find elsewhere. This can be especially true for marginalized teens, such as kids in foster homes and LGBT adolescents.
In a survey based on 1960 LGBT youth, 50% of LGBT youth reported having at least one close friend they had found through social media. Young LGBT people continue to face obstacles in their everyday lives at school or online but the Internet can be a valuable source of information when they have nowhere else to turn to and it is also a space that offers safer opportunities to express who they are. 14% of LGBT youth also admitted that they had revealed their LGBT identity to someone in online and 1 in 4 people were more out online than in person.
But social media can also have negative impacts, such as excessive use, loss of privacy, cyberbullying, anxiety, self-esteem pressures. It can drive envy, depression and even spread thoughts of suicide.
In the survey LGBT respondents said they had been bullied almost three times more than non-LGBT youth (42% vs 15%). Online victimization caused negative self-esteem and higher depression. Youth who experienced bullying and harrassment in person and online reported lower grades, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression than youth who were bullied only in person, only online or via text message, or not at all.
LGBT youth in rural areas experienced considerably higher level of victimization online and via text message than LGBT youth in suburban and urban areas.
The surveys were conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GLSEN, the Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CiPHR) and the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire during August 2010 and January 2011. This report is the first to examine thoroughly the experiences of LGBT youth online.