This study’s purpose is to examine the relations between LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youths’ Internet usage and their social capital. Previous research has shown that Internet use assists actors with similar background and interests in forming bonding social capital. Additionally, it has been found that Internet use can assist actors from dissimilar background in forming bridging social capital. This study aims at extending these findings to LGBT youth, who may especially benefit from having a supporting social network while coping with the challenges of forming their sexual orientation/gender identity. For this purpose, an Internet survey was launched, with 82 participants, who were users of forums in the Israeli Gay Youth organization website (IGY). The survey included three measures of Internet use (i.e., amount of time spent in Internet forums, content posting activity, and emotional investment in forums), and questionnaires estimating the degrees of bridging and bonding social capital. In general, we found a positive association between forum usage and social capital. Inasmuch as Internet forum use was more intensive, the reported social capital increased. Furthermore, our findings suggest that more passive forum usage may be sufficient for forming bridging social capital, whereas bonding social capital may necessitate more active usage. These findings suggest that Internet forums designated for LGBT adolescents are important resources that can help them to cope with the special challenges they face at this turning point for their identity, deem to decrease the risk of detrimental outcomes, such as depression or even suicide.
The authors wish to thank the staff members of the Israeli Gay Youth (IGY) organization for their support of this research.
Cserni, R.T. and Talmud, I. (2015), "To Know that you are Not Alone: The Effect of Internet Usage on LGBT Youth’s Social Capital", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 161-182. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2050-206020150000009007
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