If you’re an American Facebook user, there’s much more than a good chance that you have a gay friend on the service. In fact, 70% of you have a Facebook friend that identifies as either gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Facebook’s data team reported the figure to The Wall Street Journal. They point to its significance right now, considering that the U.S. Supreme Court is about to weigh in on two cases dealing with gay marriage – one on California’s Prop 8 gay marriage ban and one of the Defense of Marriage Act.
70% have gay friends? Sounds like a cultural shift, right?
Significant or not, there are some things you must consider when using statistics like this from Facebook to try and paint portrait of the country at large. Of course, not everyone in America is on Facebook. And even if we forget about that, there’s the issue of what exactly is a Facebook “friend?” Personally, I have “friends” on Facebook that I don’t much care for as do most people. Just because you’re Facebook friends with a gay, lesbian, of bisexual person doesn’t mean that you’re pro gay marriage or even that accepting of them in general.
That’s the downplay on the new Facebook stats. Now here’s something else to consider:
This data only reflects Facebook users who actually publicly identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. That means that there are plenty of unspecified LGBT users out there who have plenty of friends. In reality, the number of people with gay friends is likely much higher than 70% – at least among the Facebook-using crowd.
LGBT demographics are notoriously tricky to ascertain, but some studies indicate that the LGBT community make up at least 4% of the population, which would mean somewhere around 10-13 million people. And that could be low. I guess Facebook is reflecting the general population – it’s just inevitable that you have at least one LGBT friend (or acquaintance).
And that mirrors recent findings from Pew. As of May, 2013, 87% said that they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian. That’s up from 61% back in 1993. Not only that, but 72% said that they feel legal recognition of gay marriage as “inevitable.”