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“Everybody Puts Their Whole Life on Facebook”: Identity Management and the Online Social Networks of LGBTQ Youth

Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, IL 60614, USA
Department of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 625 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60614; USA
Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(6), 1078;
Received: 28 April 2018 / Revised: 22 May 2018 / Accepted: 24 May 2018 / Published: 26 May 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Breakthroughs in LGBT Health Research)
PDF [1575 KB, uploaded 26 May 2018]


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and young adults almost inevitably “come out”, or self-disclose their identity to others. Some LGBTQ youth are more uniformly “out”, while others may disclose to some groups but not others. This selective disclosure is complicated on real name social media sites, which tend to encourage a unified presentation of self across social contexts. We explore these complications with a cohort of LBGTQ youth on Facebook (N = 199, Mage = 24.13). Herein we ask: How do LBGTQ youth manage the disclosure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to different people in their lives? Further, are there identifiable differences in the online social network structure for LGBTQ youth who manage outness in different ways? Finally, how do LGBTQ young people describe their experiences on Facebook? We answer these questions using a mixed methods approach, combining statistical cluster analysis, network visualization, and qualitative data. Our findings illustrate patterns in network structure by outness cluster type, highlighting both the work involved in managing one’s online identity as well as the costs to (semi-) closeted individuals including a considerably lower overall network connectivity. In particular, outness to family characterized LGBTQ young people’s experiences on Facebook. View Full-Text
Keywords: LGBTQ youth; Facebook; outness; context collapse; social network analysis; network visualization LGBTQ youth; Facebook; outness; context collapse; social network analysis; network visualization

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McConnell, E.; Néray, B.; Hogan, B.; Korpak, A.; Clifford, A.; Birkett, M. “Everybody Puts Their Whole Life on Facebook”: Identity Management and the Online Social Networks of LGBTQ Youth. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1078.

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