Being out on Facebook

Nothing in the Big Gay World is as dynamic and profoundly personal as coming out, but as points out today, the global takeover of social media has changed the way we think about the process. “Facebook is like drive-thru coming out,” out journalist Caryn Brooks writes, “quick, cheap and open all night.”

Before offering some practical advice about coming out on Facebook (i.e. Make an exception for your parents. Navigating FaceSpace is stressful enough for your mom and dad without stumbling across lip-locked pictures of you and your “roommate.”), Brooks offers great insight into one of the major ways social networking sites change the way we relay our sexuality to friends.

Nowadays, even with social networking, gays still have to come out, but one of the key differences between our pre-profile selves and our new online presentations is that now (finally!) the burden is also on our friends to discover and digest our identities.

I find that this is especially true for friends or acquaintances who aren’t in your inner circle, but who you will probably run into on occasions — even if it’s at a class reunion. If those people are already familiar with your sexuality, it doesn’t become the focus of your future interactions. According to your old classmate’s Facebook status, the literary character she is most like is Elizabeth Bennet, and according to yours, your girlfriend gets pissy when she has to assemble furniture from IKEA.

The downside of having a personal blog, Twitter and Facebook is that you may not have anything new to share with your friends over dinner. The upside: no one is shocked when you show up holding hands with a chick.

Here are some of Brooks’ best tips about coming out on Facebook.

Good: Joining your workplace LGBT network on Facebook.

Not so good: Super-poking your hot co-worker.

Good: Adding large numbers of LGBT-ish entities to your fan list. Rachel Maddow, female golfers, Harvey Milk, various Calvin Klein models and almost anything related to Gossip Girl will do.

Not so good: Fan-listing gay porn stars.

Good: Highlighting your LGBT identity in your status update on National Coming Out Day.

Not so good: Outing someone else in your status update by announcing a rendezvous.

After reading Time‘s article, I tabbed over to Twitter to see how Big Gay Reveals are faring in the world of metadata, and was a little surprised to find that #comingout is flourishing. The hash tag search reveals everything from personal anecdotes to news stories to television spoilers.

My personal experience with using social media for coming out is, well, personal. But it’s also necessary. I mean, it’s 2009; half of my friends live inside my computer.

How do you feel about using social media like Facebook and Twitter for coming out?