American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 55, Issue 1–2, pp 228–238 | Cite as

Social Media as Social Capital of LGB Individuals in Hong Kong: Its Relations with Group Membership, Stigma, and Mental Well-Being

  • Eddie S. K. Chong
  • Yin Zhang
  • Winnie W. S. MakEmail author
  • Ingrid H. Y. Pang
Original Article


Social media are found to facilitate social information exchange among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals who are subjected to social stigma. This study tested the protective role of LGB-tailored social media uses and gratifications in promoting LGB group membership, which we hypothesized to reduce LGB stigma and enhance mental health among LGB individuals in Hong Kong. Based on a sample of 233 Chinese LGB individuals in Hong Kong, structural equation modeling showed evidence for our hypotheses, χ (df=62) 2  = 88.20, GFI = 0.95, CFI = 0.98, NNFI = 0.98, SRMR = 0.07, RMSEA = 0.04. Community surveillance, identity expression, and emotional support on social media may promote mental health by instilling a sense of group membership and reducing stigma. Social media may build camaraderie and bolster resilience among LGB individuals that may otherwise be difficult in conservative regions.


Social media Lesbian/gay/bisexual individuals Hong Kong Stigma Structural equation modeling 



The study was supported by the Chinese University of Hong Kong I-CARE Program (Research Project No. R14-11). We wish to thank Chun Yam Chau and the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong for their support in this study; Harold T. Y. Chui and Michael S. Boroughs for their feedback on the manuscript.


  1. Balsam, K. F., & Mohr, J. J. (2007). Adaptation to sexual orientation stigma: A comparison of bisexual and lesbian/gay adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54, 306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beals, K. P., Peplau, L. A., & Gable, S. L. (2009). Stigma management and well-being: The role of perceived social support, emotional processing, and suppression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 867–879.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berry, C., & Martin, F. (2003). Syncretism and synchronicity: Queer’n’Asian cyberspace in 1990s Taiwan and Korea. In C. Berry, F. Martin, & A. Yue (Eds.), Mobile cultures: New media in queer Asia (pp. 87–114). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berwick, D. M., Murphy, J. M., Goldman, P. A., Ware, J. E., Barsky, A. J., & Weinstein, M. C. (1991). Performance of a five-item mental health screening test. Medical Care, 29, 169–176.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolding, G., Davis, M., Hart, G., Sherr, L., & Elford, J. (2005). Gay men who look for sex on the Internet: Is there more HIV/STI risk with online partners? AIDS, 19, 961–968.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association. (2009). The situation of gay students in secondary schools.
  7. Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Harvey, R. D. (1999). Perceiving pervasive discrimination among African Americans: Implications for group identification and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 135–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryson, M. (2004). When Jill jacks in: Queer women and the Net. Feminist Media Studies, 4(3), 239–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chan, C. M.-W. (2005, July). Sexual orientation discrimination in Hongkong: A report. Paper presented at sexualities, genders and rights in Asia: 1st international conference of Asian queer studies. Bangkok: AsiaPacifiQueer Network, Mahidol University; Australian National University.Google Scholar
  10. Chan, H., & Lee, R. P. (1995). Hong Kong families: At the crossroads of modernism and traditionalism. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 26, 83–99.Google Scholar
  11. Chou, W.-S. (2001). Homosexuality and the cultural politics of Tongzhi in Chinese societies. Journal of Homosexuality, 40, 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chou, W. Y. S., Hunt, Y. M., Beckjord, E. B., Moser, R. P., & Hesse, B. W. (2009). Social media use in the United States: Implications for health communication. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 11, e48.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chow, P. K.-Y., & Cheng, S.-T. (2010). Shame, internalized heterosexism, lesbian identity, and coming out to others: A comparative study of lesbians in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 92–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Community Business. (2012). Hong Kong LGBT climate study 201112.
  15. Correll, S. (1995). The ethnography of an electronic bar: The Lesbian Cafe. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 24(3), 270–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crabtree, J. W., Haslam, S. A., Postmes, T., & Haslam, C. (2010). Mental health support groups, stigma, and self-esteem: Positive and negative implications of group identification. Journal of Social Issues, 66, 553–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cross, S. E., Gore, J. S., & Morris, M. L. (2003). The relational-interdependent self-construal, self-concept consistency, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 933.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Detrie, P. M., & Lease, S. H. (2007). The relation of social support, connectedness, and collective self-esteem to the psychological well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Journal of Homosexuality, 53, 173–199.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larson, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Donath, J., & Boyd, D. (2004). Public displays of connection. BT Technology Journal, 22(4), 71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dworkin, S. H., & Yi, H. (2003). LGBT identity, violence, and social justice: The psychological is political. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 25(4), 269–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends”: Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 1143–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frost, D. M., & Meyer, I. H. (2012). Measuring community connectedness among diverse sexual minority populations. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 36–49.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Halkitis, P. N., Parsons, J. T., & Wilton, L. (2003). Barebacking among gay and bisexual men in New York City: Explanations for the emergence of intentional unsafe behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 351–357.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harper, G. W., Bruce, D., Serrano, P., & Jamil, O. B. (2009). The role of the Internet in the sexual identity development of gay and bisexual male adolescents. In P. L. Hammack & B. J. Cohler (Eds.), The story of sexual identity: Narrative perspectives on the gay and lesbian life course (pp. 297–326). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond “homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 1, 6–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department. (2008). Summary of survey results: Household survey on information technology usage and penetration.
  28. Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department. (2012). Summary results of the 2011 population census.
  29. Hou, C. N., & Lu, H. Y. (2013). Online networks as a venue for social support: A qualitative study of married bisexual men in Taiwan. Journal of Homosexuality, 60(9), 1280–1296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jetten, J., Spears, R., & Manstead, A. S. R. (1996). Intergroup norms and intergroup discrimination: Distinctive self-categorization and social identity effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1222–1233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kertzner, R. M., Meyer, I. H., Frost, D. M., & Stirratt, M. J. (2009). Social and psychological well-being in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals: The effects of race, gender, age, and sexual identity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79, 500–510.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kung, W. W. (2003). Chinese Americans’ help seeking for emotional distress. Social Service Review, 77, 110–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lau, J. T., Kim, J. H., Lau, M., & Tsui, H. Y. (2003). Prevalence and risk behaviors of Chinese men who seek same-sex partners via the internet in Hong Kong. AIDS Education and Prevention, 15, 516–528.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lee, R. P. L., Ruan, D., & Lai, G. (2005). Social structure and support networks in Beijing and Hong Kong. Social Network, 27, 249–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leung, L., & Lee, P. S. (2005). Multiple determinants of life quality: The roles of Internet activities, use of new media, social support, and leisure activities. Telematics and Informatics, 22, 161–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Link, B. G. (1987). Understanding labeling effects in the area of mental disorders: An assessment of the effects of expectations of rejection. American Sociological Review, 52, 96–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. MacCallum, R. C., Browne, M. W., & Sugawara, H. M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological Methods, 1, 130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mak, W. W. S., & Chen, S. X. (2010). Illness behaviors among the Chinese. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of Chinese psychology (2nd ed., pp. 421–439). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Mak, W. W. S., & Cheung, R. Y. M. (2010). Self-stigma among concealable minorities in Hong Kong: Conceptualization and unified measurement. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80, 267–281.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mak, W. W., Poon, C. Y., Pun, L. Y., & Cheung, S. F. (2007). Meta-analysis of stigma and mental health. Social Science and Medicine, 65, 245–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marshal, M. P., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., King, K. M., Miles, J., Gold, M. A., et al. (2008). Sexual orientation and adolescent substance use: A meta-analysis and methodological review. Addiction, 103, 546–556.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mashek, D., Cannaday, L. W., & Tangney, J. P. (2007). Inclusion of community in self scale: A single-item pictorial measure of community connectedness. Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 257–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McCabe, S. E., Bostwick, W. B., Hughes, T. L., West, B. T., & Boyd, C. J. (2010). The relationship between discrimination and substance use disorders among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 1946–1952.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mehra, B., Merkel, C., & Bishop, A. P. (2004). The internet for empowerment of minority and marginalized users. New Media & Society, 6, 781–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674–697.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meyer, I. H., Rossano, L., Ellis, J., & Bradford, J. (2002). A brief telephone interview to identify lesbian and bisexual women in random digit dialing sampling. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 139–144.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Munt, S., Bassett, E., & O’Riordan, K. (2002). Virtually belonging: Risky connectivity and coming out online. International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies, 7, 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nip, J. Y. (2004). The relationship between online and offline communities: The case of the Queer Sisters. Media, Culture and Society, 26, 409–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Poteat, V. P., & Espelage, D. L. (2007). Predicting psychosocial consequences of homophobic victimization in middle school students. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 27, 175–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Quinn, D. M., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: The impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 634.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ragins, B. R., & Cornwell, J. M. (2001). Pink triangles: Antecedents and consequences of perceived workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian employees. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1244–1261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Resnick, P. (2001). Beyond bowling together: Sociotechnical capital. In J. Carroll (Ed.), HCI in the new millennium (pp. 247–272). Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  53. Rostosky, S. S., Riggle, E. D., Horne, S. G., & Miller, A. D. (2009). Marriage amendments and psychological distress in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 56–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rüsch, N., Corrigan, P. W., Wassel, A., Michaels, P., Larson, J. E., Olschewski, M., et al. (2009a). Self-stigma, group identification, perceived legitimacy of discrimination and mental health service use. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 195, 551–552.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rüsch, N., Corrigan, P. W., Wassel, A., Michaels, P., Olschewski, M., Wilkniss, S., & Batia, K. (2009b). A stress-coping model of mental illness stigma: I. Predictors of cognitive stress appraisal. Schizophrenia Research, 110, 59–64.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics, 123, 346–352.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stotzer, R. L., & Lau, H. (2013). Sexual orientation-based violence in Hong Kong. Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, 14, 84–107.Google Scholar
  58. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 33, 47.Google Scholar
  59. Test, M. A., Greenberg, J. S., Long, J. D., Brekke, J. S., & Burke, S. S. (2005). Construct validity of a measure of subjective satisfaction with life of adults with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 56, 292–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting. (June 20, 2011). Homophobic bullying in Hong Kong schoolsOnline survey results.
  61. Wellman, B., Haase, A. Q., Witte, J., & Hampton, K. (2001). Does the Internet increase, decrease, or supplement social capital? Social networks, participation, and community commitment. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3), 436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wincapaw, C. (2000). The virtual spaces of lesbian and bisexual women’s electronic mailing lists. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 4, 45–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Women Coalition of HKSAR. (2010). Discrimination suffered by Hong Kong women on the ground of sexual orientation.
  64. Wu, J. (2003). From “long yang” and “dui shi” to tongzhi: Homosexuality in China. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 7, 117–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhang, Y., Tang, L. S. T., & Leung, L. (2011). Gratifications, collective self-esteem, online emotional openness, and trait-like communication apprehension as predictors of Facebook uses. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 733–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eddie S. K. Chong
    • 1
  • Yin Zhang
    • 2
  • Winnie W. S. Mak
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ingrid H. Y. Pang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong
  2. 2.Centre for Quality of Life, Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific StudiesThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

Personalised recommendations