Rainbow of social media: LGBTQIA+ and allies’ mental health on social media

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June 10, 2022

Writers: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Richardson Mojica
Researcher: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Richardson Mojica
Editor: Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Peer Reviewer: Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Graphics: Klein Xavier Boiser, Jacklyn Moral 
Tweet Chat Moderators: Mark John Paul Agbuya

 

Social media plays a significant role in a person’s well-being as it becomes one of the primary spaces for everyone. In contemporary times, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis described social media as ‘the great culture creator today’ (Collins, 2021).

This modern shaper is like a clear sky with an open and comprehensive platform that offers to connect, express, and communicate. Let’s uncover the dimness and cloudiness of social media as we begin to tell the sunshine of the LGBTQIA as they utilize their accounts in a mentally healthier way. 

The Rain of Social Media

Social media platforms have become the face of violence and inequality as harassment, bullying, misinformation, and discrimination become trending towards LGBTQIA and other marginalized communities. 

LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, which this identification is used for a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The LGBTQIA community experienced threats to their well-being through the hurtful and hateful comments and reactions from the condemnatory netizens. 

This community is harassed, assaulted, victimized, and killed by a judgmental society. As a result, 64% of LGBTQ-identified social media users underwent the pain of cyberbullying through means of harassment and hate speech (Diaz 2021). 

In the Philippines, the LGBT students shared their social media experiences as they encountered anti-LGBT comments [including labeling/naming of ‘bakla’ and ‘bading’], received malicious rumors, and stereotyping [including their morality]. The result of the escalation of criticism of their being and questioning, even challenging their sexual orientation (Human Rights Watch, 2021). 

The Rainbow of Social Media

With the wide inappropriate harassment and hate reports on various social platforms. Here are some recommendations for social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Tiktok, to maintain and observe the safe usage of the internet spaces: 

  • Greater protection of LGBTQ+ users in community guidelines. 
  • Mitigating bias in algorithms and artificial intelligence. 
  • Using more human moderators to reduce the posts and spread of hate speech, extremist rhetoric, and misinformation.
  • Addressing privacy and outing [including data-privacy & micro-targeting]. 
  • More transparency and more LGBTQ hiring in several roles [including leadership and inclusion].

There is still a rainbow after the rain, as the platform of social media has proven to be a safe space for LGBTQ, especially for the youth, according to the 2017 Australian conducted research. In recognition of anonymity and lack of geographical boundaries, these digital media served as:  

  1. Practice ground for coming out
  2. Engagement in a communal gay culture
  3. Experimenting with nonheterosexual intimacy
  4. Socializing with other LGBTQ youth

The internet offers a wide range of digital resources regarding LGBTQ issues and topics to educate them about their sexual orientations and gender identities. They can even locate their LGBTQ space within their area and even meet friends who are their fellow members. From here, they can hear and be empathetic by different stories and experiences about coming out, struggles, and even ways of acceptance of oneself. 

Online platforms can be a source of strength and courage for LGBTQ movements. In 2013, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network reported a survey result of 77% who engage with the social causes as they provide a hand of support (Charmaraman, 2021). 

Here are some stories of hope from a member and an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community:

Protecting the LGBTQIA+ community online

A few years back, I experienced harassment on social media, with a threat to publicly out me against my will and disseminate personal information and private conversations. This experience has led me to depression and started to question my life choices which affected my quality of life. 

Being an older millennial member of the LGBTQIA community who identifies himself as queer, I can only imagine how the younger generation has become more open to their sexuality and preferences in social media. It was not a perfect choice during our time. But on the other hand, this openness has also become a source of cyberbullying, online hate, and internet harassment against the community, which leads to low self-esteem and higher rates of depression among the youth (Blumenfeld, 2020). With this, the community members must learn how to protect themselves online. Turner, a cybersecurity expert, suggests how the community can stay safe online. 

  1.     Find your online community. Since many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been turned away by their communities, most of them turn to social media for solidarity. It is essential to find your online LGBTQIA+ community where you are safe and peaceful. 
  2. Understand the dark side of the web. While we find comfort and convenience in using the internet, it is also dangerous. The community members need to learn how to protect themselves online, especially on social media. Protecting ourselves online can be done by blocking people on social media, keeping certain information private, updating your social media privacy settings, and gatekeeping some information you post online. 
  3.     Safely date online. Online dating can be dangerous for some as many sexual predators online. To avoid unwanted turns with your dates whom you have met online, remember these few reminders: meet at a neutral place and not at home, tell your friend about the details of your date, keep an eye on red flags, stay in touch with authorities (i.e., police), and do research by validating some details of your date. 

Being an Ally

As an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, I am concerned with their welfare. Regardless of our sense of sexual and gender identification, we have the responsibility and concern to provide an open environment and safe space, including on the digital platforms, to the LGBTQIA community to support and promote mental health. By deepening and broadening our understanding of LGBTQIA-related issues, we can understand and stand for this community. You can be an ally. The following are ways to be an ally: 

  1. U-NDERSTANDING. The best way that an ally can do for the LGBTQIA community is to understand and, at the same time is to stay informed. Educating oneself about sexuality and gender identity and their relation to social issues is critical in understanding them.  
  2. U-TTERING. Words are powerful. Making sounds with our voices can empower and help them gain the courage to speak for themselves. Also, we can encourage others to be an ally with our voices. 
  3. U-PLIFTING. Boost the LGBTQIA-identified people with our support as we fight with them. Our recognition and appreciation of their strength and bravery could spark their self-confidence, love, and acceptance.  
  4. U-NFOLDING. Open our doors as we welcome this community with our love, respect, and acknowledgment. They deserve the warmest hugs and fair treatment. 
  5. U-TILIZING. Use our social media platform as the venue of open-ground, safe space for them. Let’s not tolerate embarrassments and hate as we promote a promising future for the mental health environment for everyone. 

We all have a friend or a family member that belongs to the LGBTQIA community. Their personality, character, and identity do not revolve around their gender. Our love and care for them must be beyond what they may be. It’s the same as loving one another regardless of their and our identifications. 

 

Let’s promote a space of inclusivity as we connect, educate, and support each other on digital platforms. Be a person who has a genuine concern for one another. Love knows no color or gender. Allow ourselves to give unconditional love that entails great kindness for everyone. After the rain of fear and struggles, some members of LGBTQIA and their allies will enjoy this rain eventually. And later, we will be amazed at the beauty of the colorful rainbow. The sun will shine and shed light for the world valuing, welcoming, and embracing everyone. 

 

 

Pre-Session Activity:

*Pick your Identification Rainbow Flag/ Pick your Umbrella 

  1. How do you define yourself as a member or an ally of the LGBTQIA community? Use your pride flag to show how proud you are of your sexuality!
    Use this link as a guide: https://bit.ly/3xe2nFd 

  

Guide Questions: 

  1. What challenges do members or allies of the LGBTQIA+ community encounter on digital platforms?
  2. How do we keep our social media as a mentally healthy environment for everyone regardless of gender and sexual identification? 
  3. What policies and safeguards are essential to ensure that social media is a safe space for members and allies of LGBTQIA+?

Post-Session Activity:

*Create your pledge to promote a mentally healthy, safe space on social media as an ally and part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

 

References:

Collins, T. ( May 2021). ‘The bar is low for the social media industry’: Top platforms are unsafe for LGBTQ community, new report says. USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2021/05/10/lgbtq-social-media-report-facebook-youtube-twitter-tiktok-harassment/5015759001/

Diaz, J. (May 2021). Social media hate speech, harassment ‘Significant Problem’ for LGBTQ users: Report. NPR. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2021/05/10/995328226/social-media-hate-speech-harassment-significant-problem-for-lgbtq-users-report

Charmaraman, L. (September 2021). Social media gives support to LGBTQ youth when in-person communities are lacking. The Conversion. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/social-media-gives-support-to-lgbtq-youth-when-in-person-communities-are-lacking-166253

Human Rights Watch. (June 2021). “Just let us be” Discrimination against LGBT students in the Philippines. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/06/21/just-let-us-be/discrimination-against-lgbt-students-philippines



 

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