It’s Our Social Media campaign to make online spaces safer for LGBTQ+ youth

A young person from the BeLonG To LGBTQ+ youth group shares the importance of blocking the bad and feeding the good on social media.

A group of smiling young people posing with banners for a social media campaign

Throughout this month, BeLonG To has been running the It’s Our Social Media campaign. The campaign encourages us all to make social media a more positive space for LGBTQ+ young people by blocking the bad and feeding the good. I got involved with this campaign through my youth group at BeLonG To, and when the opportunity came up to be part of it, I was very eager to get involved and have my say.

Creating Safe Spaces
I am part of the Ladybirds group within BeLonG To, which is a weekly group of LBT (lesbian, bisexual, trans) and non-binary young people. We meet every Thursday with the themes of the group changing from week to week. Some days, we chat for hours over a cup of tea while listening to our favourite music. Other weeks we discuss more serious topics like queer sexual health, history of the community, and healthy relationships.

The topic of safe spaces would creep into our discussions, not just during group meetings but outside of groups, too. A lot of us have become frustrated at the current online world and how draining it has been on our mental health over the past couple of years. I felt as though my online feeds were being flooded with spam and unhealthy ideas every day before I’d even had my breakfast.

Blocking the Bad
When I really thought about it, I realised that we are actually the first generation who has had to grow up and be treated as test subjects for massive online corporations, with millions of ideas and opinions pushed onto us every day, including a lot of hateful content. It is crazy and totally unhealthy that, for many young people, it has gotten to the point where we are used to hearing such negativity every day. I found I was completely desensitised to “the bad” on social media. It was exhausting, especially during the pandemic when my only view of the outside world came from my phone.

Blocking the bad is something that I needed to do. When I heard about the campaign, I leaped at the chance to have my say because, when I began to turn away and monitor the media I consumed, I began to feel a lot better in myself. I had a whole different mindset and I wanted to encourage others to do the same.


Lara Fitzsimons

Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Online
It can’t be denied that there has been an increase of hate spread online and unfortunately a lot of it is directed towards the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, a study found that LGBTQ+ people experienced 50% more online hate and harassment than any other minority group. LGBTQ+ youth are also three times more likely to experience bullying or harassment online than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, and are less likely to feel safe while using social media.

LGBTQ+ young people use social media at much higher rates than non-LGBTQ+ youth, often to seek community and look for the safe spaces and information they may not have access to in real life. Coming across this trolling, harassment and discrimination can cause detrimental effects for their mind and their overall confidence. This campaign gives us the chance to talk about these effects and find ways to block this bad. We should be able to control what we see online and be able to use it for its real purpose, which is to get new ideas and broaden our minds, to really connect with people and not be bombarded with spam and hate speech.

I feel very passionate about this campaign so being involved really excites me because it feels like this issue is finally being given the attention it so desperately needs. It’s important to understand that social media exists because of us – the users – and it is a massive part of the lives of young people in the world at the moment. We spend a lot of our time online and this can be a great tool for research, connecting with people and even getting inspiration and finding a sense of self.

However, there is a really fine line that we can sometimes unknowingly cross when it comes to the media we absorb and it is extremely important for us young people to be able to voice when something is not right. I always say that it is so much easier for people to just hop online and write a negative comment anonymously with zero consequence than it would be in real life. Trolls and hate groups often find a new confidence that they may not have in real life, and feel they have the power to say whatever they want to whoever they want.

Unfortunately, individual users cannot prevent all of the hateful content that circulates online. That’s why, as part of the It’s Our Social Media campaign, we are calling on social media platforms to be more proactive in preventing and responding to reports of harassment, cyberbullying, and anti-LGBTQ+ language.

Finding Community through Social Media
Aside from all of this, social media has been an amazing tool to help me connect with others, especially over the pandemic. It isn’t all bad and I love to use social media every day, it can be a wonderful thing. I technically met my best friends through social media which I never thought would be possible.

During the height of the pandemic, I joined BeLonG To after seeing an ad on Instagram for online groups. I had wanted to go along for years so I thought, why not now when all I have to do is pop on Zoom for an hour each week? Those online groups continued for a year until we could meet up in person again, but by the end of the first month it was like we had known each other for years.

It was a really strange situation because usually, when you’re getting to know people, you don’t get to see the inside of their house and their dog on the first meeting. The beauty of Zoom is that we were pushed to be vulnerable and personal when getting to know each other. We would never have met each other if it hadn’t been through social media. We watched the restrictions lift month by month, then tighten again, then lift again, and we supported each other through the craziness. We were an escape from online class, the ups and downs of the exams that “may or may not happen”, the cancelling of debs and graduations, and overall we gave each other a guaranteed smile each week.

And now, even though the lockdown is over, we use social media in a different way. We now use it to find playlists for our house parties, send updates to the group chats, and post photos of our days out together where we are actually sitting beside each other and waving not through a screen. I feel so lucky to have found my community and some of my closest friends through social media.

BeLonG To have created an online hub for the campaign – It’s Our Social Media – where people can share their own positive news stories or favourite memes.

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