Affordances and Constraints in the Online Identity Work of LGBTQ+ Individuals

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Subject Area(s)

Computer Science


This research examines how social networking sites (SNS) and search engines (SE) afford and constrain practices related to the development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) identities. Semi‐structured interviews were performed with 30 LGBTQ+ individuals from the United States between the ages of 18 and 38. Data analysis identified these key affordances: a) identity expression, b) connecting to similar others, c) information access, and d) information control. Key constraints are: a) identity expression, b) information control, c) curation, and d) information access. Whether SNS and SE provide affordances or constraints is influenced by how participants ascribe meaning to these technologies within their everyday lives. Therefore, SNS and SE do not yield deterministically good or bad outcomes. Instead outcomes are shaped by sociocultural context and material properties of the technologies. Findings reveal implications of everyday technology use for LGBTQ+ individuals and suggest how they can leverage affordances and mitigate constraints of SNS and SE to manage identity work.