A new study out of Facebook's research and data science division indicates that people in the US who identify as LGBT are now saying so on the social network at a rapidly increasing pace. Facebook says 6 million of its US users identify as LGBT, 800,000 of which came out in the last year. The number of users coming out per day is now on track to be three times what it was a year ago. Facebook defines "coming out" as a user who has updated their profile to express same-gender interest or one who has specified a custom gender, a feature the company introduced early last year.
The company is also tracing origins of the increase to significant events, like June's landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. "On a typical day, one out of every ten people who change their 'interested in' status on Facebook do so to reflect a same-gender interest," wrote Facebook Research's Bogdan State and Nils Wernerfelt. "On the day of the Supreme Court ruling, this ratio was double, one out of every five people. Additionally, in the days following the June 26 Supreme Court decision, we saw more than 26 million people display a rainbow filter on their profile picture."
Facebook is also studying the spike in online support for LGBT groups on the site. Around 5.7 million Americans support at least one of the top 300 most popular LGBT pages like those operated by the Humans Rights Campaign and GLAAD, the company says. Like the number of Americans coming out, the support for LGBT pages is similarly increasing at a rapid pace and enjoyed a spike immediately after June's Supreme Court decision. "Fan pages for LGBT-rights groups acquired over 150,000 new fans during the five days following the decision," State and Wernerfelt wrote, adding that fans of LGBT pages has increased by 25 percent this past year.
The social network's research and data science teams are not typically known for examining sexual or gender orientation in their public studies; recent blog posts include visualizing crisis relief in Nepal and tracking how users express laughter across the website. That makes today's announcement one of the most personal insights into Facebook's nearly 1.5 billion-person user base ever revealed.