Facebook reports 800,000 Americans “came out” on the site in the past year. The actual numbers may be affected by Facebook’s chosen definition, but there’s clearly a social trend this year.
The number covers both sexuality and gender. The Facebook research team put together the figures by compiling the number of people each day who either updated their profile to show a same-gender attraction (which appears to include bisexuality); changed their relationship status to show a same-gender partner; or changed their listed gender to one of the 56 options (other than male or female) added last year.
It’s not clear if this definition of “coming out” includes people who’ve taken advantage of the option to add a custom gender visible to their Facebook friends while keeping either male or female on their public profile.
The company didn’t give figures for people who’ve changed their status from a same-gender attraction to either no listed status or an opposite-gender. There’s also no figure for users who’ve made a formal announcement of coming out in a status updates, though of course it would be almost impossible to assess that with an automated filter. Presumably the figures relate to individual users rather than double-counting people who’ve changed statuses more than once, though Facebook doesn’t explicitly say so.
It very much appears as if the Supreme Court case on marriage equality this year correlates with a consistent increase in the rate of people coming out on the site. The graph above uses October 11 last year as a baseline, a date chosen because it is National Coming Out Day. Since May, the daily figure has been consistently above that point and rising, with a particular spike on the day of the Supreme Court decision (June 26.)
The total number of people who’ve ever met this criteria for “coming out” on Facebook now tops six million.
You may remember the brief trend for adding a rainbow effect to profile pictures to mark the decision. Facebook now says 26 million people took part in this display.