Is It Impossible to Stay in the Closet If You’re on Facebook and Twitter?

We’ve spent many breaths detailing how your “private data” isn’t so private when it comes to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But despite your best efforts to thwart Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to make all your base belong to him, sometimes it’s human error that’ll be the end of you. Like “Joe,” a closeted fella in a same-sex relationship who was outed by a friend on Twitter.

Newsweek‘s Joshua Alston, in a responsible story about homosexuals that might undo a smidge of Ramin Setoodeh’s damage to the brand, retells the foibles of his anonymous pal:

Several weeks ago, a friend—whom for these purposes we’ll call Joe—came to me with a woebegone expression on his face. When I asked him what was wrong, he confessed a digital dilemma. A mutual friend had casually left a comment in Joe’s boyfriend’s Twitter feed that exposed their relationship. Neither Joe nor his boyfriend is openly gay, and the pair hadn’t planned on having that conversation with friends and family any time soon—if at all. The fallout was relatively mild: a friend contacted Joe’s boyfriend and asked for confirmation, which he reluctantly gave. The offending tweet was quickly removed, so either no one else saw it, or whoever did chose to ignore it. Joe was upset with our friend for sending the tweet, the content of which was a bit careless but totally benign, and my response to him was a combination of devil’s advocacy and good old-fashioned tough love. I told him that he and his boyfriend have the right to keep their relationship and their sexuality a secret, but there’s only so much contortion they can expect from others in keeping up appearances. The other bit of my advice was more immediate: if you want to be in the closet, you can’t be on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s true. The era of information overload means that no matter how much privacy to try to maintain, or how hard you try to keep your personal life personal, there will inevitably come a time when you simply don’t have control over it. It may come in the form of a Facebook wall post or tweet, or strangers viewing all the gay headlines (from Queerty!) in your Google Buzz feed. Funny that just two years ago the biggest problem with being gay on Facebook was not being able to join.

What’s ironic, then, is that services like Facebook and Twitter are actually also fantastic for closeted queers. They are lifelines to other people like you, with the same fears and anxiety you’re facing living a double life. So I wouldn’t recommend completely quitting the services, but a pseudonym here and there couldn’t hurt — especially since your own network of friends can out you via algorithm.

Just remember: Nothing on the Internet is ever deleted. And the CIA is spying on you.

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  • Lepeche

    Leaving the interested in section blank screams gay on facebook. At least for guys.

  • My Name

    Can I say that your site is also a part of the problem along with facebook. Yesterday I logged into the site and opened multiple stories in different tabs and then noticed the line “MY NAME has recommended this story along with 3 people” with the FB like icon! I had done no such thing, just clicked on the links though in another tab I was logged into FB. Was this an error on your part? or facebook? I had to log into FB and see if it appeared on my feed- thankfully not. A friend of mine saw it as an attempt by your site to boost your pageviews by having auto-recommend happen. True? or not? Either way- please do explore it.

  • Toby

    I’m so bored of “social networking”…I’m far more interested in video chatting…for now.

    I’m sure I’ll bore of that soon enough…

    But Facebook, WOW, if I have to wish another random person from high school a “Happy Birthday”, I’m going to put a fucking bullet in my skull.

    Zuckerberg, I loath you.

  • Sammie

    There’s a reason I don’t do social networking…

  • j

    @Lepeche: Hahah, ditto. This is how I usually know if its worth it to chat up a friend of a friend. :P

  • clairey

    People are so stuck up in their own life they never notice the Facebook details, especially the gay ones. Either that or they ignore it. And either way most people who are really closeted manage to stay like this on Facebook. Few years ago I have been constantly clearing my history and locking my movie folders. Now my Facebook screams gay and still people ignore it or think I’m just joking. I know they keep all information about you but who cares…they could have at it if they have the time and patience. It would be nice to even go through my mail and clear out the spam.

  • PopSnap

    Actually, it’s quite easy. I don’t think that somebody would post LOL YOUR BF IS CUTE! I HAVE NO CONCEPTION OF POLITE ETIQUETTE HAHA! because they know, if they’re my friend, that I am not out to some of the people in my family who are on my Facebook and probably never will be, because that would create awkward and wholly unnecessary awkwardness. If someone did post such a message on my Facebook, it would be deleted and they would find a nice semi-angry message in their inbox.

    I am out to literally everybody except for my dad, my grandparents, and a few aunts & uncles. I mean, it’s common knowledge. After being out for 5 years, NOBODY has told any of them about my sexual orientation because that’s just totally inappropriate and I doubt many people would do that, unless you live in a town of 5,000 in Alabama where everybody knows everybody else is a member of First Fundie Biblethump Church.

    Interested In is left blank along with other things.

  • B

    No. 6 · clairey wrote, “I know they keep all information about you but who cares…”

    I know as a fact that they are maintaining a dossier on me, and I don’t even have a facebook account! How do I know? Because of the spam I’ve gotten from that *#*#$&* company.

  • bk

    @Lepeche: Or, you don’t wish to sexualize your profile, instead keeping it tasteful and professional.

  • ossurworld

    When you make your sexual drive the centerpiece of your life, Facebook will out.

  • Jorge

    Staying in the closet is one thing, having this whole secret life where you have boyfriends and separate friends is damaging to those around you. It’s 2010, there is no excuse for an adult to be in the closet anymore. It’s just pathetic.

    But either way, people should be weary of disclosing much of their personal life online regardless of sexual orientation.

  • greenluv1322

    It’s all of you closet cases that makes gay rights so hard. You can’t come out to your mommy and daddy and gran ma ma because you are afraid that they won’t love you anymore…boo hoo. I agree with Jorge. You guys are pathetic!

  • B

    No. 12 · greenluv1322 wrote, “You can’t come out to your mommy and daddy and gran ma ma because you are afraid that they won’t love you anymore…boo hoo.”

    Did you consider the case of some guy with a 95 year old homophobic father who simply can’t handle it because he is a complete bigot, stubborn as a mule, ignores the obvious, and lives over 1000 miles away? You know, someone with a real life “Archie Bunker” in the family?

    Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply not tell the guy so he can maintain his illusions in spite of all the indirect evidence to the contrary.

  • mike

    Get Real….Facebook, Twitter, etc….are all social networking sites in which one ADVERTISES themselves by creating a “PROFILE”. This “profile” is a written and published description for all to view. For anyone to think that they retain any semblance of privacy when placing a profile on-line, on any site,is ludicrous. It is no different than taking an ad out in the NY Times. Only difference is you can burn a newspaper, but one on-line, there is little recourse. People need to take responsibility for what they put on-line. If you want privacy in your life, stop making desperate attempts for attention and friendship. Its sad to fathom the time people spend chatting on-line, rather than making a true connection, via a phone call or cup of coffee with a friend. not someone you “friended” on Facebook. It seems that “social networking” has eliminated “social graces” and people have forgotten how to speak and communicate with each other. In addition, if you are”closeted” and want your privacy, don’t blame someone else for outing you….only you provide people with that information by having a Facebook account. Keep in mind, you may not disclose your sexual orientation, but you are also judged by the company you keep, so if you happen to “friend” openly or clearly gay friends, you open yourself up to even more scrutiny regarding your sexual preference.

  • Matt

    F*cking joke, when facebook itself immediately suspends an account when it is suspected to be a pseudonym. I’ve managed to keep two separate accounts for over 3 years now though. Until today I guess when one of my accounts got a security warning message. But I can fix that easily enough.

    Nearly had a disaster on my hands before the current privacy features came on. My ‘out’ account isn’t lasciviously campily gay or anything like that, but it’s the one place where I can be completely honest and it would be immediately apparent to anyone reading it what my orientation was. And no my main account doesn’t pretend to be straight, I just sidestep the ‘interested in’ question altogether. Nor do I try to drool over nekkid chicks or get a beard or anything.

    I’m NOT ashamed of being gay, but I’m currently completely financially dependent on my parents. And I KNOW they will not take the news of me batting for the other team, well judging on their past reactions to anything gay. Kicking me out penniless on the streets would be the kindest thing they’d do.

    I’d still like to attend uni sometime in my life thank you and get a running start on life instead of finding myself homeless before I’m even 18.

    And yes, the hilarious thing is that my first gay friends were all online, in facebook. They taught me not to be afraid, keep me up to date on issues I do care about deeply (like DADT and the rash of bullying suicides), they helped me come out to the only few people who know I’m gay in real life, they kept me alive, ferchrissakes at times when I get so f*cking disgusted with the world.

    The consequences are far more severe in other countries as well where you face jailtime and a death sentence. To everyone who keeps putting down those of us who HAVE TO remain in the closet (and believe me, majority is not by choice aside from log cabin asshats of course), consider yourselves very lucky. If the reasons why other people remain in the closet isn’t immediately that apparent to you, then you never went through what we are going through now ya? You probably had loving parents that immediately accepted you, supported your desire to go art school, and all that. And now you’re transferring all the years of bullying you’ve endured as an openly gay teen on us, as if being in the closet isn’t itself also a prison and just as excruciating as bullying. I can’t wait to come out, bit I can’t just now. What part of that don’t you understand?

    You’re all worse than the homophobes themselves. What would you have liked? Another Matthew Shepard just so gay teens can prove how courageous they are?

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