The internet and sexual identity formation: Comparing Internet use before and after coming out

Łukasz Szulc and Alexander Dhoest


Even in its early years, the Internet was recognized as a medium with great potential for lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals (LGBs), especially for LGB youths struggling with their sexual identity. Yet, Internet research related to coming out tends to focus on particular cases or Internet use before and during coming out. Consequently, as such research emphasizes the opportunities and positive aspects of the Internet for LGBs, it may lead to an overestimation of the importance of sexual identity in terms of LGB Internet use. Therefore, in this paper we explore the LGB-specific Internet use of a broad crosssection of the LGB community both before or during and after coming out. Our quantitative online survey and in-depth interviews show that LGBs use the Internet for LGB-oriented purposes less after coming out than before or during it. The results suggest that sexual identity becomes a less salient topic in terms of everyday Internet use after coming out.

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The European Journal of Communication Research is an established forum for scholarship and academic debate in the field of communication science and research from a European perspective. Communications highlights the concerns of communication science through the publication of articles, research reports, review essays and book reviews on theoretical and methodological developments considered from a European perspective.