Data On 249,000 #ComingOut Posts Shows How Far We've Come In Terms Of Acceptance

But we still have further to go.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, choosing the right time and place to come out is both a personal and pivotal decision. While some choose to tell only their closest family and friends, others prefer to shout it from the virtual rooftops, aka social media. Though the latter is understandably riskier, coming out to the virtual world can also be unexpectedly empowering. In fact, some even turn to social media platforms, particularly Instagram, to receive support from an online community in lieu of their local community. 

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That's one of the reasons why the hashtag #ComingOut has become increasingly popular in recent years (especially on October 11, National Coming Out Day) for many countries. In an effort to uncover some interesting cultural trends, Zava, an online doctors service, analyzed 249,000 #ComingOut posts on Instagram. 

In 2013, there were only 1,000 #ComingOut posts. By October 2017, however, there were 12,791.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many wait until National Coming Out Day to share their coming out stories online. The number has steadily increased each year, with more than 3,100 posts in 2017 alone.

The Human Rights Campaign, the founding organization behind National Coming Out Day, notes the importance of this day to build on the progress made by the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in the past. "When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other," the organization states on its website. "... Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality." 

While it's heartening to know how many have used #ComingOut to tell their stories, it's even more promising to think of the countless others that have been inspired along the way. 

But it’s not just the sheer number of #ComingOut posts that is impressive. The response is even more important to those who still may be in the closet.

Zava found that an average of 78 percent received positive responses. The highest percentage of positive comments — 80 percent — were seen in 2016. Comparatively, the percentage of negative posts has remained at only 6 percent from 2012 to 2018, with the exception of a slight uptick to 7 percent in 2015. 

As the percentage of negative comments have stagnated, there has been a marked growth in positive comments. In the last six years, they've increased by an overall 10 percent. The analysts believe this to be "a direct reflection of the growth and progress that we have collectively made to make the internet safer for the LGBTQ+ community."

Seeing the positive response to #ComingOut posts can inspire those thinking about showing their truest selves, and encourage them to take that next step — both on and offline.

More than anything else, the trend of coming out on social media can empower LGBTQ+ people by showing them they're not alone. From 2011 to 2018, #ComingOut posts received 66.4 million total likes. Though the number of likes have increased over the years, the average number did drop in 2016. 

Zava attributed this downturn to many factors, including the increase in political activity during the United States' presidential election, the rise of "alt-right" perspectives on social media, and the possible impact of the Pulse Nightclub shooting on coming out rates.

Even with old and new challenges, the LGBTQ+ community has become stronger than ever, in part thanks to social media's unique ability to connect people all over the world. No matter how alienated someone may feel in their hometown, all they have to do is type #ComingOut into their phone to find a community ready to love them for who they are. 

Cover image via Jose Luis Carrascosa on Shutterstock

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