LGBT helpline has seen a rise in cyberbullying

More people also coming out online
  • Deborah Condon

A helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has reported an increase in cases of cyberbullying.

According to the national support service, the LGBT Helpline, it is increasingly being contacted by victims of this type of bullying.

"Mainly, this presents where people are either threatened with or have experienced negative comments being posted online about their sexuality or gender identity. We are also hearing from people who have been threatened with, or have had, private images of themselves shared online, sometimes by an ex-partner," explained the helpline's national coordinator, Paula Fagan.

The helpline has also seen an increase in the number of LGBT people who are choosing to come out online. Ms Fagan noted that in the past, this was a very personal experience and people tended to open up to only a small number of trusted family or friends.

"While people are still careful about who they tell when they are first coming out, once they feel more comfortable about their sexuality, more and more people are choosing social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as a way of telling other family members, friends and their wider social circles," she said.

However, she noted that the helpline is increasingly hearing from people who have come out online, ‘but who are then very anxious as a result, wondering how this huge event in their lives will be received'.

"People can spend a lot of time deliberating over whether or not to come out online and then, after doing so, they can feel quite exposed.On the up side, we're seeing that most people receive a lot of positive affirmation after coming out online. They find it a reassuring experience, with social media often helping them to feel less isolated and allowing them to tap into extensive online support networks," Ms Fagan said.

However, she emphasised that it is a big step to come out online and she encouraged people to think carefully about this and consider what supports they have offline if they do not get the reaction that they wanted.

One in three contacts to the LGBT helpline is now made through the organisation's instant messaging service. Furthermore, over 80,000 people visit the LGBT.ie website every year to access information and supports and services nationwide.

The helpline number is 1890 929 539. For more information, click here

 

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