Social Networks Extra-Popular With Gays, Lesbians

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Gays and lesbians are heavier users of social networks than the population at large, according to a new national survey from Harris Interactive, which also found they are more likely to read blogs than their heterosexual counterparts. These findings aren't particularly surprising, basically confirming earlier studies showing that -- like young adults and ethnic minorities -- gays and lesbians tend to index higher in social network use. But in the case of gays and lesbians there is an interesting issue of correlation versus causation (at least, I find it interesting).

According to the June survey of 2,412 U.S adults -- including 271 identifying as gay or lesbian -- 73% of the gay and lesbian respondents reported having a Facebook profile, compared to 65% of heterosexuals. Meanwhile 32% of gays and lesbians said they were members of MySpace, versus 22% of the heterosexual respondents (the proportion of both groups is declining). In the professional arena, 22% of gays and lesbians said they are members of LinkedIn, versus 16% of heterosexuals. 29% of gays and lesbians are on Twitter, versus 15% of heterosexuals.

Gays and lesbians are also more frequent users of social network sites, according to Harris, with 55% saying they visit a social network site at least once a day, compared to 41% of heterosexuals. 30% of gays and lesbians visit several times a day, compared to 17% of heterosexuals.

Turning to other online media, 54% of gay and lesbian respondents said they read blogs, compared to 40% of the heterosexual population. Here the gay and lesbian proportion is up from 51% two years ago and 32% in November 2006. In the latest survey, gays and lesbians were more likely to read blogs about news and current events than heterosexuals (36% vs. 25%). The same is true for blogs about politics (22% vs. 14%) and travel (16% vs. 8%). Unsurprisingly, 35% of gay and lesbian respondents said they read blogs targeting gay and lesbian audiences with identity-specific content.

Of course, these data raise an obvious question: "why?" One possible explanation is that social networks are convenient tools for meeting other gays and lesbians, while blogs help meet the demand for lifestyle-specific content in this niche audience.

But I should also point out these data may be skewed by self-reporting bias among gays and lesbians. For one thing, younger adults are more likely to self-identify as gay or lesbian than older adults, which could push down the average age of the gay and lesbian sample relative to the heterosexuals -- and push up the apparent usage rates for social networks and blogs. Some researchers have also suggested that coming out is correlated with income and education, which could also skew the data on Internet behaviors.

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