Reinforcing Behaviors of Chinese Gay Male Users on Facebook

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Abstract

The gay male community has changed dramatically over time, from appearing only in specific locations (e.g., gay enclaves) to becoming virtual communities. Chinese gay virtual communities first emerged on scattered Websites (e.g., blogs and chat rooms) but now lie on Facebook, which provides a place to post a profile (e.g., photo and basic information), a personal display space (e.g., pictures), and an array of interactive methods (e.g., “likes” and comments). Further, cultural beliefs affect the development of the community. Confucianism and collectivism have most contributions on the homophobia within Chinese societies and the nondiverse value systems within the Chinese gay Facebook community. Based on the theoretical framework of social learning theory, this study explored gay users’ reinforcing behaviors on Facebook. The 15 gay male participants included 12 Taiwanese, 2 Hong Kong residents, and 1 Mainland Chinese who had used Facebook on average 4.2 years. All attended semistructured interviews 40–60 min in length for phenomenological analysis. The results revealed 4 themes: (a) Participants created different accounts to separate gay and nongay friends; (b) Participants used “gaydar” to connect with new gay friends; (c) Self-promotion increased their friends and followers; and (d) The more “likes” they received, the more benefits they obtained. The results offer a new lens for rethinking the population’s interaction and various needs, although they cannot fully apply it for Mainland Chinese and Chinese American gay male users.

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