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Online Social Networking Sites: Meaning of SNS's to Gay Men from Non-Accepting Families

Curry, Richard T.
Committee Members: 
Dr. Eric Haley
May 2014


The role of technology can be argued as changing the social landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals. A 2009 survey of LGBTQ adults revealed over 70% of individuals self-reported using the Internet as their primary means of information seeking (Bond, Hefner, & Drognos). While traditional venues still exist for LGBTQ individuals in exploration of personal and sexual identities, the Internet serves as one distinguishing difference: anonymity. This study utilizes in-depth interviews, (N=15), to explore the experiences of gay men, from non-accepting families, who use online social networking sites (SNS) to reshape their perception of the world and of self. Findings indicate six emergent themes dominating gay individuals’ usage of online social networking sites: (a) usage pertaining to curiosity, (b) involving social stigmatization, (c) coming out and imagined interactions, (d) accessibility and fear of rejection, (e) in relation to religious values, and (f) “I’m Gay:” Becoming LGBTQ, (see table 4.2). Narratives of the 15 participants paint a picture of SNS usage as an invaluable tool in the exploration and acceptance process of their being a gay individual, specifically in the context of having non-accepting families. The potential effects of gay individuals using online SNS include reduced internal conflict and expanded choice in exploring and defining their identity as well as an unintended effect of “Becoming LGBTQ.”