There’s a lot of back and forth about the potential danger of social media for youth. And when it comes to LGBTQ youth, it’s especially important to examine whether they are impacted positively or negatively by the widespread use of social media. Over the years, there’s been growing concern over the effect of social media on our mental health and especially that of the youth.
Some studies have found a link between depression and anxiety and social media usage. There are other studies that claim differently. When you consider the potential impact of social media- internet addiction, cyber bullying, access to pornography, or even predators, it makes you wonder whether being on the internet is worth it.
While it is imperative to monitor your safety while on the internet, there are some positive impacts of social media usage that we cannot ignore.
Provision of a safe place
For one, social media can become a refuge and act as a safe space where LGBTQ youth feel less alone. For queer people to feel “normal”, they should be able to read, see, and hear the actions and voices of other people in the same community and use the same labels to identify themselves. Not all LGBTQ youth are out and can immediately come out due to lack of support from their immediate family, community, or school. In order for them to find the acceptance and solace they so crave, they will look into their laptop and their phone.
Social media plays a significant role when it comes to the education of LGBTQ youth. It is on social media where LGBTQ youth can find sufficient coverage of topics and communities that have been in the past or historically termed as taboo or no-go zones. This kind of education has the potential impact of lessening the emotion burden from LGBTQ youth by offering the chance to learn about gender expression, pronouns, gender itself, and even sexual orientation.
When an individual or a group of people within a community understand the object of their prejudice through different forms of media, they can eliminate their biases and increase their acceptance levels. While this may not necessarily mean LGBTQ youth, it could apply to families, and communities. The more people used social media and the other types of media to educate themselves about the LGBTQ community, the less their prejudice and the better their chances of acceptance. Representation matters even in seemingly small ways.
Protective Risk Factors
As we mentioned at the beginning, social media has both its positives and negatives. While it may turn into a stressful environment, it does have the characteristic support systems that can help to mitigate stress in LGBTQ youth. For instance, it is on social media where said youth can gain access to support systems and improve their psychological well-being. It is on social media where LGBTQ youth can learn about who they are and their community, learn how to take care of themselves and protect themselves and each other from adverse risks.