"I Pretended to be a Boy on the Internet": Navigating Affordances and Constraints of Social Networking Sites and Search Engines for LGBTQ+ Identity Work

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In this multi-platform study, I analyze interviews with 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in the United States (U.S.) to demonstrate how social networking sites (SNS) and search engines afford and constrain their identity work. Data analysis identifies three key affordances and constraints for how participants create, negotiate, and sustain their LGBTQ+ identities: identity expression, visibility, and anonymity. I explore each using a tripartite analytical frame of stigma, tactics, and authenticity. Findings describe how participants navigate hetero- and gender-normative discourses encoded into SNS and search engines to affirm their LGBTQ+ identities. Designers can use these results to create platforms inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities that afford, rather than constrain, these navigations.