An exploration of digital media use, community connectedness, and sexual orientation identity development among young men who have sex with men

Dennis Henyee Li, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Young men who have sex with men (MSM) and MSM of color carry the burden of HIV in the United States and are the priority target population for the CDC’s High-Impact HIV Prevention approach. This strategy calls for low-cost, large-scale implementation of HIV-prevention interventions, many of which utilize digital media and leverage resources and a sense of connectedness to a larger “gay community.” However, this broad, sweeping approach reduces a heterogeneous population of men to a single risk behavior and eschews other factors that contribute to their health, likely impeding the ability to address specific needs of different MSM subgroups. More research is needed to understand differences within the MSM population and how they use the Internet and relate to the gay community.^ The relationship between digital media use and community connectedness was investigated in two samples of young MSM. In the first, YMSM aged 16–20 (N = 450) were examined for developmental heterogeneity using latent class and latent profile analyses, and the effect of the differential developmental trajectories on the association between gay-related Internet use and gay community affiliation was modeled using structural equation mixture modeling. In the second sample, the effects of online versus offline relationships at various levels of the social-ecological model on gay community cohesion were compared using multivariable logistic regression among YMSM aged 17–29 from two cities (N = 719).^ Latent class analyses identified 5 classes of experience patterns and 7 developmental trajectory profiles, supporting substantial heterogeneity within the first sample. Developmental trajectories were found to moderate the association between Internet use and community affiliation, suggesting that YMSM in different trajectory profiles use and respond to the Internet differently. Multivariable logistic regressions in the second sample found that only attendance at physical venues was significantly associated with gay community cohesion in both cities and that online relationships at the interpersonal and institutional levels were not associated with cohesion. ^ The findings have implications for High Impact Prevention in that physical-venue-based interventions still show promise at increasing community connectedness, but online media should supplement offline interventions and be tailored to specific subgroups of MSM.^

Subject Area

LGBTQ studies|Public health|Behavioral sciences|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Li, Dennis Henyee, "An exploration of digital media use, community connectedness, and sexual orientation identity development among young men who have sex with men" (2016). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10183283.