Social media has become an essential part of our day-to-day lives. A large number of us read it when we wake up as if it was our morning paper. We find out what is going on around the world, share our thoughts and beliefs, meet new people, and connect with others who have the same interests as us. Then, some use it to escape their reality, to find a world in which they are accepted and loved, where they have no fear of being themselves. There are different reasons and individuals who use social media in this way, and one of them is queer people. In that case, we can view social media as a queer safe haven.
A queer reality online
Being openly queer is one of the most difficult challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community will face. There are different reasons why this happens, but it usually includes fear of being discriminated against, fear of losing their families, fear of being kicked out of their home, or fear of being physically attacked for who they are. The truth is these fears are entirely rational, as a large number of queer folks have faced these consequences in the past.
Research shows 46% of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, and 47% of trans people feel able to openly talk about their sexual orientation or gender identity to everyone in their family. 1% of lesbians, 2% of gay men, 30% of bisexual men, and 8% of bisexual women say they are unable to talk about their sexual orientation with their friends. This means there is always a part of the community living in the shadows and needs a place where they can be themselves. For a lot of them, that place is social media.
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis has previously said social media is a lifeline for LGBTQ people. And a recent article by The Conversation discussed research in which several young queer people were interviewed about their social media experiences. “The group reported using social mediums such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, and Discord to find others like them — and to discover a language that helped them make sense of their own feelings and desires (which is often absent from classrooms).” Therefore, social media is a safe haven and a resource to understand their feelings, emotions, and selves.
A Twitter experience
Nowadays, there are different social media platforms queer folks have access to, but one of the most used ones is Twitter (44.5% of their users identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual). Among those users, you will find me, joining millions of other queer individuals tweeting about their likes, dislikes, opinions, and dreams.
I joined Twitter over a decade ago in 2009, when I was still figuring out my sexuality and needed to understand why I felt more attracted to the actress in the movie than the actor. It was a wild ride, and I would not have made it if it had not been for Twitter and the friends I made through this bird app. It was through the old 140 characters limit that I came to understand myself and accept my sexuality. I was scared to share it with those around me, but it was easy to say it online where I was just another username among thousands.
Twitter was my safe haven for many years, maybe still to this day. I turned to this app when I was sad, needed to express myself, or wanted to find answers to emotions I did not know how to handle. It is easy to understand why so many of us queers turn to these platforms for comfort and safety.
A digital escape
Although social media can have negative connotations, depending on how it is used, it can also be a positive tool. So is the case for queer people who turn to these platforms in times of need, struggle, or doubt. This digital escape provides them with a place where they are surrounded by others who understand what is going on in their lives and can give advice or a direct message of comfort. Who would have thought we would now see social media as a queer safe haven?