Data scientists Bogdan State and Nils Wernerfelt shared details in a Facebook Research blog post on three trends they discovered, defining “coming out” as users updating their profiles to express same-gender attractions, or specifying custom genders:
- Steady growth in both the number of people coming out on Facebook and the rate of that occurring.
- An increase in support for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) groups.
- The strong effect of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in June on all of those positive trends.
According to State and Wernerfelt, the chart below shows the percentage of Facebook users who came out on a given day compared with National Coming Out Day in 2014 (Oct. 11), and on June 26, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, that percentage skyrocketed to more than 250. They wrote:
Over the past year, approximately 800,000 Americans updated their profile to express a same-gender attraction or custom gender. Further, not only has the total number of Americans who have come out on Facebook risen dramatically, but so has the number coming out each day. As the chart demonstrates, the number of people on Facebook coming out per day is on track to be three times what it was a year ago.
Facebook Research also broke out LGBT users by state in the chart below.
And the researchers examined likes for LGBT pages, finding that they have jumped by 25 percent over the past year, with the Supreme Court decision again providing a noticeable spike. State and Wernerfelt wrote:
Again, we see an increase in fan numbers around the June 26 Supreme Court ruling: In fact, fan pages for LGBT-rights groups acquired over 150,000 new fans during the five days following the decision. While this event marked the largest single increase in support for LGBT pages, we also see spikes on the Sunday following World AIDS Day (Dec. 1, 2014) and on the day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the Obergefell case (April 28, 2015–though this effect may have been amplified due to Diane Sawyer’s interview of Caitlyn Jenner April 24).
Facebook’s research is proving just what a difference visibility makes to LGBT people. In a year that’s seen unprecedented coverage of LGBT people–from major coming-out moments to Supreme Court victories to tragedies shaking the community–we see people becoming visible in their own lives.
And it’s these small coming-out moments–the 21-year-old college student who tells his Facebook friends from high school that he’s transitioning; the retired teacher who changes her status and posts about her marriage to her longtime partner; and the gay dad in a small town who comes out to his co-workers and then his family online–that make bigger coming out moments possible.
When people know us, they support us. And clearly, social media is an incredible tool in making that possible.
Readers: What did you think of the statistics on coming out from Facebook Research?