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 2(df=62) = 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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association. (2009). The situation of gay students in secondary schools. http://www.newtouch.net/files/ref_report/ref_report_08a.doc.
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.
Bryson, M. (2004). When Jill jacks in: Queer women and the Net. Feminist Media Studies, 4(3), 239–254.
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.
Chan, H., & Lee, R. P. (1995). Hong Kong families: At the crossroads of modernism and traditionalism. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 26, 83–99.
Chou, W.-S. (2001). Homosexuality and the cultural politics of Tongzhi in Chinese societies. Journal of Homosexuality, 40, 27–46.
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.
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.
Community Business. (2012). Hong Kong LGBT climate study 2011–12. http://www.communitybusiness.org/images/cb/publications/2012/HK_LGBT_Climate_Study_2011_12_EN.pdf.
Correll, S. (1995). The ethnography of an electronic bar: The Lesbian Cafe. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 24(3), 270–298.
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.
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.
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.
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larson, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.
Donath, J., & Boyd, D. (2004). Public displays of connection. BT Technology Journal, 22(4), 71.
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.
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.
Frost, D. M., & Meyer, I. H. (2012). Measuring community connectedness among diverse sexual minority populations. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 36–49.
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.
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.
Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond “homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 1, 6–24.
Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department. (2008). Summary of survey results: Household survey on information technology usage and penetration. http://www.info.gov.hk/digital21/eng/statistics/download/itsurveysummary2008eng.pdf.
Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department. (2012). Summary results of the 2011 population census. http://www.census2011.gov.hk/pdf/summary-results.pdf.
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.
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.
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.
Kung, W. W. (2003). Chinese Americans’ help seeking for emotional distress. Social Service Review, 77, 110–134.
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.
Lee, R. P. L., Ruan, D., & Lai, G. (2005). Social structure and support networks in Beijing and Hong Kong. Social Network, 27, 249–274.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mehra, B., Merkel, C., & Bishop, A. P. (2004). The internet for empowerment of minority and marginalized users. New Media & Society, 6, 781–802.
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.
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.
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.
Nip, J. Y. (2004). The relationship between online and offline communities: The case of the Queer Sisters. Media, Culture and Society, 26, 409–428.
Pew Research Center. (2013). The global divide on homosexuality. http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2013/06/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Homosexuality-Report-FINAL-JUNE-4-2013.pdf.
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.
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.
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.
Resnick, P. (2001). Beyond bowling together: Sociotechnical capital. In J. Carroll (Ed.), HCI in the new millennium (pp. 247–272). Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stotzer, R. L., & Lau, H. (2013). Sexual orientation-based violence in Hong Kong. Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, 14, 84–107.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 33, 47.
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.
Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting. (June 20, 2011). Homophobic bullying in Hong Kong schools—Online survey results. http://tcjm.org/2011/06/20.
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.
Wincapaw, C. (2000). The virtual spaces of lesbian and bisexual women’s electronic mailing lists. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 4, 45–49.
Women Coalition of HKSAR. (2010). Discrimination suffered by Hong Kong women on the ground of sexual orientation. http://survey2010.wchk.org.
Wu, J. (2003). From “long yang” and “dui shi” to tongzhi: Homosexuality in China. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 7, 117–143.
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.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Chong, E.S.K., Zhang, Y., Mak, W.W.S. et al. Social Media as Social Capital of LGB Individuals in Hong Kong: Its Relations with Group Membership, Stigma, and Mental Well-Being. Am J Community Psychol 55, 228–238 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-014-9699-2
- Social media
- Lesbian/gay/bisexual individuals
- Hong Kong
- Structural equation modeling