SAN FRANCISCO — More and more Americans are coming out on Facebook, according to a new study the giant social network released Thursday.
Facebook says 6 million of its U.S. users identify as LGBT and 800,000 came out in the last year. The number of users coming out each day is on track to be three times what it was a year ago, the new research shows.
The giant social network defines “coming out” as updating one’s Facebook profile to express same-gender attraction or specifying a custom gender, a feature the company introduced last year. (As a result, the Facebook researchers say “it is likely that this figure is an underestimate of the total number of ‘out’ Americans.”)
Facebook says the increase suggests the LGBT movement has made “significant strides” in recent years, particularly after major events such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling in June. There was a 250% spike in people coming out on Facebook that day compared to the National Coming out Day in 2014.
“On a typical day, one out of every 10 people who change their ‘interested in’ status on Facebook do so to reflect a same-gender interest,” wrote Facebook Research’s Bogdan State and Nils Wernerfelt. “On the day of the Supreme Court ruling, this ratio was double, one out of every five people. Additionally, in the days following the June 26 Supreme Court decision, we saw more than 26 million people display a rainbow filter on their profile picture.”
Support of LGBT rights groups on Facebook is also on the rise, increasing nearly 25% over the past year and spiking after the Supreme Court decision, Facebook said. About 5.7 million Americans support at least one of the top 300 most popular LGBT pages such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, according to the study.
Jay Brown, director of research and public education at Human Rights Campaign Foundation, says 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,” Brown said in an email. “When people know us, they support us. And clearly social media is an incredible tool in making that possible.”
Follow USA TODAY senior technology writer Jessica Guynn @jguynn
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