How has social media affected LGBTQ people? By now, we should all be familiar with how social media works and how AI presents us with information/content it thinks we want to see. Usually based on our search history. But have we thought about all the ways that it can impact us?
We are at a point in our history where we spend more of our time online than we do in reality. Many of us have more online friends than people we know closer to home. These are the people we share ideals and commonalities with, not those closest to us.
Social media has become one of the first places that many young LGBTQ people will come out. They find an online community that offers support and help with what they are going through. It can foster a place of safety when it seems the rest of the world is here to tear us apart. We can discuss our worries and fears with those who have experienced them. That in turn, becomes helpful information for navigating our situations with more understanding.
It’s also there when we need it. Had a bad day at work due to some person spouting hateful slurs? We can log into our favorite Twitch streamer to get it off our minds. We can visit a Facebook group to find a way to release our frustrations. We can watch our favorite YouTuber to give us an escape.
But is it all a bed of roses?
Can Social Media Cause Depression?
There are plenty of studies that either support or try to debunk how pervasive that belief is.
The main theory supporting theory comes from the fact that cyberbullying is anonymous and easy to commit. You log into Facebook, Twitter, or wherever and people can message you, based on your posts. Being constantly assaulted with negativity can wear you down. If you don’t have people outside of social media that can help life you, it only spirals out more.
It doesn’t end with cyberbullying. Body positivity is another huge issue. No matter what social media platform you are on, it’s designed for sharing our lives through words, pictures, and videos.
We’re shown daily, the “beautiful people” of the internet. Open any app and you’re treated to a buffet of the beautiful things of the world. Everyone shows they are having the greatest times of their lives, all the time.
Social media allows us to curate the information we present to the world. Adding fancy filters and amazing content that looks like you are going to the best places or parties. It can show you have perfect looks and clothes and are the most popular person.
These illusions are shown in HD quality to remind us what we don’t have.
What those same people don’t show are the normal struggles everyone goes through. Because of that, it creates a sense of longing in us. We want to be as beautiful and as popular as those accounts we see online.
This also affects teenagers. They are already carrying around this need to feel validated and to fit in. Seeing the curated pages and flawless filters sets up those same teens for mountains of self-doubt.
These feelings only grow as they grow and move on to higher education. It is no surprise that so many teens contemplate suicide. Judging themselves against these “fake” realizations and the constant cyberbullying.
The White Gay Men of Social Media
Moving beyond bullying and curated lifestyles, there are other issues that social media presents. One of these is the over-saturation of white gay male beauty.
Social media is rife with being disproportionate in how it shows various races. If you have searched Instagram then you are already aware of it. Looking at guyswithiphones.com, you will notice that tanned white men are the dominant results.
A feast to the eyes in speedos, exotic locations, and completely nude is there for us to see and to help perpetuate the stigma.
In the case of Instagram, what we fail to realize is that these photos are just as curated as the posts on Facebook. Filters, photoshopped, and fake backgrounds make them look to be a part of the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.”
The Reality Of Being Average
These profiles make up a very small percentage of people in real life. Look around at the people you know, count how many have full six-pack abs and sculpted bodies. The reality is that more often than not we rarely fit the image type presented in those posts.
This can help increase the number of people who have body image issues and low self-esteem.
This shouldn’t be a shock, after all, how many of us look for normal or average people when we are searching the internet? How many of us would subscribe to a channel that showed an average person with a little bit of extra weight, lounging around in sweatpants, eating junk food, and talking about how bad or frustrating events in their lives are? The number of followers they have would be the most honest answer to that.
Try it for yourself. Go to Instagram and search for #hotbear or #hotbeards. Those have 38.3k posts and 20.9k posts respectively. Then, scroll through the resulting images. You will see mostly white, skinny, or fit guys with beards wearing very little and posing provocatively.
This creates a sense that these are the people we need to follow. That is how we’re supposed to look and live, isn’t it? If we don’t, then we must be doing something wrong or there is something wrong with us.
Let me say here, for the record, I am all about promoting sexuality and body positivity. My position is that we should be celebrating it, in all forms in which it may come. Every race, color, gender, orientation, and body type. Even whether you have sculpted muscles or not.
I get it, we want followers, we want our content to be trending and be seen. And what better way to do that than through sex appeal. Showing hard bodies living beautiful lives will skyrocket your engagement. We write content that shows how extravagant our lives are, not the everyday struggles. That is what people want to see, right?
The old saying goes, “change comes from within.”
Yes, this saying is referring to personal and self-growth, but it’s just as functional for talking about changing how we can promote acceptance of all people, from within our community.
There are pages on Instagram where you can find more inclusive posts. #Gay_Maps is a good representation. Let me say that they still show the perfect body type but they also show people of color and average body types.
Want something a little different? #LGBTOutdoors is a page that shows LGBTQ people connecting with the outdoors. All are welcome. Beautiful locations and beautiful people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and sexual identities.
The Choice Is Yours
Getting back to the impact that social media has on our community, is it good or bad? The honest answer is that it depends on our level of interaction.
Most of us have grown up in a world that shows a leaning toward a white culture with perfect bodies and lives. If that is as far as we choose to search, then it can harm us.
We can choose to follow more diverse people. Explore hashtags that you might not normally search for. Remember, it is the diversity of our community that has always been our biggest strength. But more importantly, it is our diversity that gives us that strength. Let’s celebrate it all.