How People Disclose in Social Media

Several Democracies See Social Media as Mostly Good

Older users of social media are less likely to disclose the gender in which they are interested than younger users. In addition, women are more likely to identify as bisexual or homosexual than men, according to a recent study.

The study by Oxford Demographer  Dr Ridhi Kashyap and Connor Gilroy of the University of Washington says that women in their 20s and early 30s are twice as likely as older women to identify as bisexual.  In the study “Digital Traces of Sexualities: Understanding the Salience of Sexual Identity through Disclosure on Social Media”, the authors analyse disclosure of information on Facebook linked to sexuality in the United States.


On the study, Kashyap says that the choice of making the information public or not in terms of their sexual identity makes a fascinating study. She was quoted “You can see how people signal themselves,’ says Dr Kashyap. ‘They were not doing this in the context of a survey or a data collection exercise such as a census, but for themselves and their social networks and communities. The data generated when we use social media platforms provide a different but complementary perspective to one offered by more classic social science approaches, which rely on asking and getting a response.”

Meanwhile, Gilroy says that there large generational differences can be seen from a younger social media user sharing his or her sexually much more than a older user. “Younger users, and especially younger women, are also more likely to be interested in the same gender, or both men and women. For older users, marital status often substitutes for their sexual identity, whereas single people are more likely to disclose their sexuality,’ he said.


In 2017, of the approximately 200 million women and men aged 18 to 64 who used Facebook in the United States, the study found that 56.3 million or 28 percent specified the genders in which they were interested. Meanwhile, 143 million or 72 percent did not disclose information. Among those who disclosed their sexuality, the authors identified four million as sexual minorities (1.68 million (0.8 percent) interested in their own gender and 2.21 million) interested in both men and women.

The study claims that only 20 percent of 18 year-olds disclosed any sexuality, but this rose sharply to 50 percent of those in their mid 20s. It fells again to 20 percent by age 40 and declined thereafter to 10 percent by 60 years of age.

The study also shows that women are more often openly bisexual or lesbian. Compared with women, men are more often explicitly heterosexual. Relationship statuses shape the disclosure of sexuality more for the old than the young, the study says.

Whether single, in a relationship, or married, young Facebook users who specify any of these relationship statuses disclose their sexualities at nearly identical and high rates.

Single people at older ages continue to disclose at high rates, while disclosure rates among people in relationships fall slightly among older ages. Married users present a strong contrast: from age 40 and above, they disclose their sexualities at rates of 20 percent or below. Those who do not specify a relationship status are the least likely to specify a sexuality at all ages, though they too disclose at higher rates if they are young, the study said.


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