Managing Mental Health as an LGBTQ+ Youth in a Social World

Steve Wang
Steve Wang

For many young people (myself included), our lives are increasingly digital. We spend hours a day, for better or for worse, on our phones scrolling through our TikTok For You Page, liking Instagram posts of both our classmates and celebrities, and swiping through Snapchat stories.

Although these can be great platforms for keeping up with old friends and memorializing important life moments, they can also be hubs for misinformation, hate speech, and a catalyst for self-doubt.

The month of June is a particularly volatile time for LGBTQ+ individuals. Although Pride Month is a time full of celebration and, as the name suggests, pride, it can also be a time of rampant homophobia and transphobia, especially for a generation as ingrained in the digital world as ours. Here are some tips that I, as a queer individual, use to keep myself secure and happy online, even outside of Pride Month.

Body Image

We all know that social media apps like Instagram have a particular reputation regarding body image issues. As photo-sharing sites, it’s very easy for people to post images of their bodies. These apps can exacerbate beauty standards in queer communities, which can lead to

gender dysphoria and low self-esteem. It becomes very easy to compare yourself to others and feel insecure when you don’t fit a certain body type when you’re constantly exposed to that type of content. In these cases, it’s important to recognize that most people tend to post only their best pictures and moments on social media. Not everyone always looks the way they post online, and images are often edited to bolster people’s most flattering pictures. You don’t need to look a certain way to fit into a community, and recognizing that is just one of the first steps to feeling comfortable with your body.

Substance Use

Social media apps also reinforce stereotypes about what queer culture is supposed to look like, and sometimes these representations can be harmful. There is a pervasive narrative that substance use is a significant part of LGBTQ+ life, particularly within certain subcultures. Seeing repeated images and videos of parties involving alcohol and drug use can create a false impression that engaging in such activities means being accepted into the community. This can put pressure on young people, especially to partake in substance use to fit in when that is not the case. Your conformity to a particular lifestyle does not define your identity and worth, and you are valid whether or not you choose to engage in drugs and alcohol.

Homophobic and Transphobic Content

It’s very easy for apps such as TikTok and Twitter to become echo chambers for certain types of views, which can harm and damage vulnerable populations. Engaging with this type of content is very easy, as it’s a natural instinct to want to educate people on their harmful views. However, it’s also important to realize that not everyone is willing to have an open mind and change their opinion, or are merely seeking engagement and attention in the vein of internet trolling. Pride Month can be an invaluable period for members outside of the LGBTQ+ community to learn about our history and issues, and healthy conversations with these individuals can benefit everyone involved. However, it’s also easy for these types of conversations to devolve into insults. If that happens, then it’s okay to take a step back to protect yourself from further hateful rhetoric. Continued engagement with such content can tell the algorithm to put more of that content on your feed, so while you might want to interact with every harmful post out there, not every argument is worth engaging in. Some things are out of your control, and it’s okay to prioritize your mental health and focus your efforts elsewhere.

While social media can be a powerful tool for connection and expression, engaging mindfully with content is important to preserving your mental health. Social media is a powerful place to seek support from peers and others in the community, learn about LGBTQ+ history, and share your experiences with others. Don’t hesitate to use the block and report functions, as that can help create a safer space for you and others engaging with similar types of content. Remember that your well-being comes first, and protecting your peace is okay. 

Happy Pride Month! Together, we can create a world where everyone feels confident in providing support and building connections. Let’s be there for each other, because feeling supported starts by knowing someone cares.

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