As part of Belong To’s It’s Our Social Media campaign, we are sharing the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth online throughout the month of March. Below, 18-year-old Jodi Flynn shares how digital platforms can positively impact young queer people.
Social media, in my experience, is generally a positive place. I have had many wonderful experiences in my life that have stemmed from social media. I have had Instagram for most, if not all, of my teenage years up to this point, and through it, I have made so many friends that share similar interests and have been able to keep in touch with friends from everywhere and anywhere; from moving schools to discovering new interests, I have been able to keep old friends and meet new ones through the magic of the online world.
When I was 14, I was added to a group chat on Instagram through a similar interest. It was lovely as shared experiences were potent in the group, and we became quick friends. It has been years since that group chat was made, and yet, I’m still in touch with all of them. Even though we are on different continents living completely different lives, the connection we were able to form simply through a similar interest is incredible and without social media, it would’ve been impossible.
Crucially, it was one of the other Irish members of this group chat who introduced me to Belong To.
Belong To became a second home for me extremely quickly and taught me so much about queer culture, history and experiences that I simply hadn’t known about before. The fact that it was a casual passing comment online that pushed me to research the youth group and become a part of it is wild to me, as it became so important in my life so quickly.
Social media is extremely important for LGBTQ+ people for several reasons; it provides a platform for meeting other members of the community and can be a place of safety for those without support in their offline lives, among other things.
''The community guidelines, they're there but they're not actually acted upon in the way they should be.''
Let’s keep our communities safe. If you see hate online, remember you can #BlockTheBad & promote positivity instead.
Find out more at https://t.co/tWruFcK7DR pic.twitter.com/QwpfrFTmWQ
— Belong To (@Belong_To) March 27, 2023
A friend of mine came to me with a story – one she thought would be vital for young, queer people to hear. They grew up in a family where being a member of the LGBTQ+ community was majorly frowned upon, and growing up with these constant stereotypes being thrown around in conversation, they found themselves becoming closed off to the idea of exploring and understanding their own sexuality. Though she is now open and comfortable being lesbian, it took a long time for them to break out of the mould he had been put in and unlearn any ideas or assumptions he had heard surrounding queer people.
It was through meeting members of our community that she was able to begin to openly express her sexuality and reduce the bias she had towards it in general. They expressed to me how, though she had previously been able to pretend to be interested in boys and straight, sexuality-related media, being able to openly express themselves on platforms such as Twitter made it much more difficult as time went on, so she simply stopped pretending.
Watching him smile as he told me this made my heart ache with happiness, as so many queer children in homes where they are not accepted deserve to have an escape, a community where they are loved for exactly who they are.
I am lucky to have an incredible support network around me, so having someone be so open and share their story with me to aid young people through very real situations was very much necessary. I hope stories like hers will help others understand and accept themselves.
Compared to traditional media, online forums, magazines and social media are much more effective in terms of promoting LGBTQ+ representation and news. Outlets such as GCN have certainly helped me stay up to date with information I may not have found to be necessary or interesting before. I find myself fascinated while scrolling through articles and posts online relating to LGBTQ+ culture and find it extremely productive to understand my history as a queer person. Social media posts shared between friends, family and followers are an extremely efficient way of extending information to others, whether they be allies or other members of the community- this information can be positive or negative, vital or simply entertaining, but whatever it is, the ability to share it so quickly is incredible.
Unfortunately, not everything relating to social media is positive for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 87% of LGBTQ+ young people have witnessed or experienced some form of harassment online, which is absolutely horrific. I, myself, have experienced harassment online related to my sexuality. I have had people call me slurs, comment demeaning things about my sexuality and even privately message me to tell me how “disgusting” they think I am.
Nowadays, I simply report, block and delete the message, never allowing it to hurt me, but when I was younger and much newer to social media, this was terrifying. Back then, I never knew how to react. I ignored anything said – but that didn’t mean I hadn’t seen it.
Blocking accounts and deleting any trace of the harassment helped me greatly. Now that I’m more aware of what happens and how it makes young people feel, I do my best to shield them from harassment like this. Though people online can be hateful, I will always be there to help my community and I know they will always be there for me.
Help us #FeedTheGood by sharing your positive stories or #BlockTheBad by sharing our tips on how to stay safe online which can be found at our online hub through the link below ⬇️https://t.co/tWruFcK7DR
— Belong To (@Belong_To) March 6, 2023
The amount of harassment towards the LGBTQ+ community online is something that, unfortunately, does not surprise me in the slightest. Free speech is something so necessary, yet hate speech is so harmful to our society and unfortunately some people will not change. I encourage people to block any offensive or harmful words or users and be extremely careful who you allow to follow and/ or message you. Social media is a great resource for our community, but staying safe is much more important. Both positivity and negativity will always be visible on every online platform, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community. We can find great things on social media as long as we are vigilant and safe.
© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.
comments. Please sign in to comment.