Social media has given us access to communicate with all different types of people around the world, changing the way many communities interact and develop. The LGBTQIA+ community is no exception as there have been both positive and negative impacts on LGBTQIA+ by identifying individuals, allowing them to share ideas, history, movements and support each other. However, social media has also allowed potential for cyber abuse.
Advantages of social media
Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have given a voice to many queer creators, couples, and families to spread both awareness and normalize LGBTQIA+ lifestyles as well as being inspirational and showing many young people that they are also seen and valid. This is incredibly valuable for individuals who do not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality to people around them. Social media has given them access to see and speak to like-minded people, share their struggles and be themselves.
Social media has also allowed vital education across the community. For example the trans community has been able to share knowledge of how to safely bind and where to get discreet packaging to protect young trans individuals whilst helping them feel comfortable in their skin. Advice and knowledge like this protects the community both mentally and physically where they may normally have not had anyone to share this with. It has also given a space for LGBTQIA+ history to be unerased, spoken about and helped shine a light on individuals that have changed the way we can live today and whose stories have gone unheard due to discrimination.
Social media has also allowed large groups of people to create ‘found families' that in some instances (and if done safely) have allowed people to meet in real life and create lifelong support networks. More LGBTQIA+ people have also appeared in mainstream media such as Dylan Mulvaney, Stuart and Francis, and The Old Gays. This leads many to collaborate with mainstream brands appearing not only online but also in marketing campaigns across retail and TV. This does create a divide if businesses are using queerness to sell rather than supporting the community however it has caused more visibility for the community for the right or wrong reasons.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and other sexual and/or gender minority (LGBTQ+) youth identify significant benefits from engagement with social media, as well as other Internet-enabled technologies"
Risks of social media
Unfortunately, social media does still with risks. Some closeted individuals may feel comfortable sharing their true selves online when they would not in person. Those in their real lives may be able to find these online profiles which could lead to distressing real-life situations where lives day to day are altered. In some cases, it has given individuals the confidence to come out to people such as their friends and family and they are forever grateful for the confidence they gain from social media. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case and it can potentially put members of the community in danger, if it causes them to be outed in real life.
Although there are some measures in place to prevent hate online there is still nothing stopping homophobic individuals from hiding behind a screen and commenting and messaging creators potentially causing them to feel unsafe. Equally, although algorithms often put like-minded individuals in each other feeds sometimes images or videos may end up on the wrong side of the algorithm such as putting a video of Drag Queens onto an anti-drag communities page opening them up to a surge of hate that can be incredibly damaging.
"The LGBTQ+ community is in desperate need of safe digital spaces. Frankly, the big social platforms — Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and the rest — have completely abdicated any duty to keep queer people safe from harm,"
Overall, I think social media has had a mainly positive impact helping many people to feel less lonely. Hate has always existed and still exists in real life. Online hate is horrible and more constant but it does not outweigh the progress social media has allowed the community to make and the visibility it has given to the LGBTQ+ community. Of course, some consequences come along with it but it has also allowed power in numbers and given many people a voice.