Virtual Masquerade

Understanding the Role of Twitter’s Alter Community in the Social and Sexual Engagements of Men Who Have Sex with Men

  • Samuel Brando H. Piamonte Philippine Council for Health Research and Development
  • Mark Anthony M. Quintos De La Salle University, Manila
  • Minami O. Iwayama Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Keywords: Alter, men who have sex with men, MSMs, online behavior, social networking sites, Twitter


Little is known about how Twitter is used for sexual engagements. This study aimed to explore the online community of anonymous accounts in Twitter called “Alter” in terms of users’ process of initial exposure and eventual involvement into the online community, the users’ typical online behavior within the virtual community, and their reasons for engaging in it. A sample of 11 men who have sex with men (MSM) who actively engage with other Alter accounts were the participants of the study’s online ethnography of the Alter community. Data were collected by means of interviews and observations. Through thematic analysis, results indicated that sexual satiation runs the online community, yet Alter has been augmented by more complex social benefits including network formation, advocacy sharing, and provision of emotional support and safe space. In sum, Alter Twitter is a tool of Filipino MSMs not just to express and search for sexual gratification but also make meaningful interactions. The Alter community affords these individuals a venue to express themselves sans the consequences to their social life should these accounts become known to people who know them outside of the Internet.

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