TikTok is where young LGBTQ people of color feel the safest online


TikTok logo illustrated on mobile phone held in a hand
Image Credits: TikTok

While the relationship between all young people and social media is complex, yielding both positive social effects and posing unique risks to mental health, queer teens spend even more time on the internet than their non-LGBTQ counterparts — time often spent searching for community and vital connection around identity.

In new research, The Trevor Project explores where young LGBTQ people of color feel safest spending their time online. In its sweeping 2023 U.S. mental health survey, the Trevor Project included new questions about how young queer people felt across various popular online platforms, comparing the experiences of young LGBTQ people of color to their white peers to illuminate differences. The survey includes data from 28,524 LGBTQ people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S., capturing a huge swath of data on social media behavior.

The Trevor Project’s Senior Machine Learning Research Scientist Wilson Lee told TechCrunch that because social media and mental health is such a complex topic, their work always focuses on reflecting as much nuance as possible.

“There are lots of good things and also, unfortunately, lots of harmful things,” Lee said. “And then they’re also good and harmful in different ways for different people, so [we’re] trying to sort of dive into that.”

In The Trevor Project’s research, 53% of young LGBTQ people of color reported feeling safe and understood on TikTok, compared to 45% of their white peers. On Instagram, 41% of young LGBTQ people of color reported feeling safe and understood, compared to 38% of white respondents. There were also small differences on Twitter (21% versus 20%) and on social sites specifically designed for LGBTQ users (21% versus 19%). LGBTQ people of color who felt safe and understood on one platform often felt the same way about one of the other platforms and rarely described one platform alone as a safe space.

Young LGBTQ people of color decisively reported that TikTok was where they felt the most safe and understood online — the only social platform where more than half of respondents (53%) felt that way. Discord was next with 43%, followed by Instagram with 41% and YouTube with 33%.

The surgeon general’s advisory on risks of youth social media use could shift the conversation

In the other direction, differences were most pronounced on Reddit, where only 17% of young LGBTQ people of color reported feeling safe and understood compared to 21% of their white peers. Differences also emerged on Twitch (15% versus 16%), Steam (6% versus 9%), dating apps (6 versus 9%) and on Facebook (4% versus 7%).

For young LGBTQ people of color, exploring gender and sexual orientation is just one side of the equation when searching for belonging online.“We know that LGBTQ young people, when they go on social media, they often can benefit from social support and exploration and things like that — so we know that’s sort of different from their non-LGBTQ peers [who] might not be seeking that as much,” Lee said.

“And then, sort of from a different lens, community support is also another thing that young people of color tend to look for in the spaces because not everyone has access to supportive spaces in real life.”

Feelings of safety and being understood aren’t just abstract metrics of well being — those measures directly translate to better mental health outcomes. Young LGBTQ people who expressed those feelings about at least one online social space were 20% less likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year and 15% less likely to have experienced anxiety recently, according to Trevor Project data. For young LGBTQ people of color, the protective effect of online social spaces on anxiety was even more pronounced.

“These online experiences have very real real life consequences — and they have very real real life consequences for different people in different ways,” Lee said. “So we’re always urging people to, as much as possible, take an intersectional lens when they’re thinking about these experiences, because they can be very drastically different.”

LGBTQ organizations report a recent uptick in Twitter hate

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo