Posts Tagged ‘online’

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my gay online adolescence.

January 28, 2013

Just the other week, Harry Hitchens (from BBC’s Young Apprentice) posted a video on Youtube coming out to the world.

He states that his main motivation for doing this was so that other young people who were learning to accept themselves and their sexuality did not feel so alone. I wish that there had been more of these videos when I’d been growing up, because my gay adolescence was quite lonely; and although I knew I wasn’t the only one, it was a long time before any of my peers were willing to expose themselves so publically and so deeply.

In my youth, we had no Youtube or Twitter. Facebook didn’t arrive until the end of my first year of university. As a teenager, all I had was Faceparty and MSN (and AIM for a brief period, but few in the UK used it), and Myspace (which I used primarily for my music, but I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of people via that medium who have ultimately become good friends). Otherwise, to talk to other people, there were online forums and bulletin boards; awkwardly enough, for a year and a half I navigated my adolescence writing cathartic and experimental poetry on a largely Christian bulletin board. Eventually, for a range of reasons, we drifted apart (although amicably so).

My father took a long time to cave in to broadband; over dialup, I used WinMX to download music one song at a time; occasionally I would download brief gay porn videos that would take HOURS for just a couple of minutes’ worth of footage, that I would then delete upon logging off the net for fear of my dad seeing them. A couple of times late at night once my parents were long asleep, I also cybered with randoms I found in chatrooms on WinMX. The screens of these chatrooms were black, and the writing for different people would be in different colours; it looked much more aggressive and raw than the internet looks now, but there was no permanence to the interactions; the words spiralled into an abyss, into nothing. In the present, every single thing you do online has ramifications; thankfully, I didn’t have to navigate my sexuality and my youth online with the fear of my words being screenshot, paraphrased, used against me at any opportunity being a realistic one. (I know it could still have been done, especially with my father’s IT expertise, but it wasn’t prevalent the way that it seems to be today.)

During the year I spent living in Spain, I used to spend a hell of a lot of time chatting to Hannah on MSN, and a site we explored for a little while was called MeetYourMessenger, which was a combination of Faceparty and MSN. It was not very fruitful however; I remember having one conversation where a guy spoke to me exclusively through ostentatious, glittering animations and smileys. He was blocked after that conversation. I also used to read gay fanfic on Nifty, and I actually got talking to a guy on there; we even met up a couple of times! We also used to cam, and all of these memories remind me of how when flirting on all of these different sites, people were desperate for pictures, for videoed conversations. Separate USB webcams are now a thing of the past, but back then they were an indispensable part of the online experience for some, threatening symbols of sexual predators for others, and a laugh for the lucky rest of us in between.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I originally found Toby through Fitlads, a gay dating site that intimidated me far less than Gaydar. I didn’t have an iPhone at that point so I have never used Grindr, and I think I’d probably find that too intimidating too. Anyways, after a couple of successful conversations on MSN where we both proved to one another that we actually had thoughts in our brains, once we found out that we both were attending UWE for our postgrads, we decided to cut the online stuff and just meet in person. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I had forgotten a lot of these things until I started looking back over my teenage years in detail, and thinking about all of the websites I used to visit. They sound almost quaint compared to what sites are around now, and at the same time as the internet became faster, sleeker and more commonplace, I thankfully became older, wiser and more prudent with my actions. At the age of 11, 12 or 13, I don’t know if I would have been savvy enough to evade every pitfall Facebook (let alone more adult sites) has to offer. From my time at Cirencester College, teaching young people about how to be intelligent about what they share on the internet is important – especially in a culture of digital natives where there is a lot of pressure to share everything (from peers and otherwise). In this same way, just as I discovered the internet as I grew older, is the right to privacy something young people of today will only really discover and understand in their twenties – once it’s, perhaps, a little too late?

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a year without facebook.

July 7, 2011

It has been over a year since I wrote this post and closed my Facebook account. So how have I found life without having a profile on the biggest online social media site?

Fine! Quite good and carefree, in fact. I must admit that occasionally, when seeing colleagues on Facebook in the office looking at friends’ photos, I have thought “it would be nice to have access to that”. But then I remember that the whole point of leaving Facebook was to leave hassle behind, and not only do I not have to worry about looking through reams and reams of photos and other notifications, I don’t have to get into the murky politics of accepting and ignoring friend requests from colleagues whom I don’t really know, or people I haven’t seen for years without worrying that it might come back to bite me through a mutual friend. I don’t lose productivity time through Facebook. I still vastly prefer Twitter because I can update it with the minimum of effort, and it’s much more like a conversation than like a Myspace page with bells and whistles. Perhaps I’m just getting older, but I don’t miss Facebook chat and I am going on MSN less and less. While I think that all of the stuff the internet can do is amazing, I am living my life more and more in the real world, and as I grow older and more independent and responsible, my time is taken up with real concerns such as cars, bank accounts, finding a new job, moving, affording a holiday…

The only thing that might bring me back to Facebook in a small way (and this remains to be seen) is my job. Not to converse with colleagues or keep up with any popularity contests that are going on (I am so not interested in that, as I already know who my friends are and I am content with that), but to liaise with students in a professional capacity. Some older staff have embraced this, while others are nervous about it and it admittedly has its risks in terms of e-safety. But my job revolves around working with teenagers, and Facebook is one of the major ways in which they communicate and interact with one another. I therefore feel that while using their personal emails has worked absolutely fine for me this year, perhaps next year I shall set up a Facebook account for my tutees so that I can announce things to them on there, and they can use Facebook as a means of communicating with me if they need to – perhaps it will be more intuitive for them than always emailing me. I have also written a tutorial activity on advising students not to put up ill-advised things on their profile, as important people such as employers might be able to look at this! I then realised that as part of the discussion, I recommended tutors to advise students on how to change their privacy settings… but not having Facebook, I no longer know exactly how to do that! So in a very small way, I am out of the loop – but it would only be a concession to work purposes that I might return to Facebook, in a small way.  We’ll see.

I feel like I am treating myself a bit like an addict, and acting as if anything that threatens my abstinence from Facebook might be a bad thing… although I was never excessively hooked on it in the first place! Generally, my life has been a lot better and freer for having closed my account. Although when I was talking with Elenna on the way to work this morning, and she said how much she has benefitted from Facebook reuniting her with old friends with whom she had lost touch – for me, I have been there and done that. Anyone I wanted to regain touch with, I would either have done it up until last year, or it’s not worth doing. Perhaps my opinion will change in the future, who knows? I just prefer having one less way for people to contact me. After all – as I said last time, “all of [the important] people have my mobile number, my email, my address.  If they really wanna talk to me, or I really wanna talk to them, I will make an effort to do so in a more personal way than Facebook offers.” Game over.

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trust, humiliation & beauty.

November 7, 2009

I understand that this blog has been a bit Rihanna-focused lately, but between the new material that has been premiering online and the publicity surrounding her 20/20 interview (which is a must-see – check it out at Toya’s World), I’ve been hooked on her once again.

Within this interview (which resonated with me more than I will go into on this particular post), Rihanna said two things that I thought were particularly interesting.  One thing was the notion of feeling ashamed and embarrassed when the picture of her battered face was leaked by the media – because she fell in love with a person who could do that to her.  Obviously you can’t help who you fall in love with, you never know how abusive they might be until the first time it happens, and the notion of shame is one that we could debate for days anyway.  But the idea of that was interesting to me, that there are certain of us who seem to feel humiliated or ashamed by things that are essentially not our fault – yet we take the blame for ourselves.  It reminded me of a time when I was dating L, and we found out that we had a friend in common, M.  So everything was cool, and it was a nice coincidence and all that business.  And I remember having a conversation with L, and he said that M had told him effectively to be gentle / careful with me as I’d been hurt in the past.  I remember just feeling utterly mortified, humiliated and ashamed.  I wasn’t angry (and I’m not angry about it now) – after all, M wasn’t wrong, and I wasn’t embarrassed by the fact that he had told L to treat me nicely; although it wasn’t necessary for him to do that, I appreciated the sentiment and understand that M was only looking out for me.

But I felt ashamed that someone viewed me as fragile, vulnerable or emotionally unstable.  That someone might have to explain my apparent insecurities to someone else made me feel humiliated.  I mean, yes, I have been hurt in the past (and then during that relationship – although I caused L hurt too, something which I still feel sad about, as I never meant to – and since) and my reluctance to let somebody in right away stems from that.  I was discussing with Emma last night that I am a very suspicious person, and if someone is friends with me or enters into a relationship with me, or even just approaches me in a bar or whatever flirtatious setting, I can’t help but wonder why they’re doing it, what they want from me, and whether they just want to use me up and throw me away.  I guess that comes from past experiences, and also probably what I’ve learned from my mother.  But I can’t help suspecting people, and I admit that I’m still growing as a person and I’m more insecure than I might care to admit to anyone who isn’t very close to me.  So for somebody to not only penetrate the façade I uphold of being strong (and at the same time as being a vulnerable person, I also believe that I am a strong person and that the two can co-exist within me), of being independent and of being teflon, but also to have to make excuses for the way I am and the fact that I might not let somebody in as quickly as 1-2-3 made me feel embarrassed.

Why should I feel embarrassed about myself?  In relationships, I don’t know what is up with me but I generally manage to get into these tortuous situations without ever having something concrete that lasts very long.  But I am a popular person, an intelligent person and a handsome person – my friends say that I will not be single for long, etc. etc.  These are things people say – who knows whether it will come true or not?  There’s more to life, but I can’t help but wonder if the façade I try to maintain at all times slips more often than I realise?  I think I would feel equally humiliated to know that the vulnerability and sadness I try to hide every day of my life was in actuality on full show half the time, and that that might be part of what turns people off wanting to date me or feeling attracted to me.  I hate the thought of people feeling sorry for me – not only because they shouldn’t, since everyone has their own pain and who’s to say that mine is greater than anyone else’s, but because I’d rather people didn’t focus their pity on me.  I understand it’s out of kindness or what have you, but I don’t desire that kind of attention.

The second sentiment Rihanna expressed was that of “F love”.  If you’re in an abusive relationship, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, you have to keep your judgment unclouded by love, and you need to do what is logically right for you, your safety and your health, regardless of the direction in which your heart pulls you.  That is a hell of a lot easier said than done; exhibit a) my current infatuation with somebody with a ring on it.  And this isn’t the first time that love has led me astray – this time, although the feelings are intense, at least I am getting something out of the relationship and it makes me happy more than it makes me sad.  Looking at my parents’ marriage, both past and very current present, although I’m proud of the storms they have weathered, if I had been in my mother’s position, I would never have put up with it.  And if I had been in my father’s position, I would never have put up with it.  Without saying too much, I don’t know if love was their only motivation in deciding to stay together (I highly doubt it, since things are rarely that clear-cut), but I would certainly have said “Fuck love, fuck everything, I’m gone.”  Even though I am a vulnerable person, and quite often I believe that part of me must be really an ugly person, I still have more self-worth than to go along with it.

Last night, I was out with Emma and we had some really special heart-to-heart conversations.  Obviously I am going to divulge nothing of what we discussed (here or anywhere else), because I made her a promise to keep what she told me to myself, and that is the whole point – I am a trustworthy person and trust is such a fragile thing, such a precious thing and something that takes so long to build.  Be it because of past experiences, be it because of what I’ve learned from my parents and other relationships that have surrounded me as I’ve grown up, but I find it hard to trust people and it’s rare that I am totally and immediately open with my heart to friends I’ve known for years, let alone somebody new in my life.  But I believe that trust is vital for life, for relationships, for friendships.  The thought of my betraying someone else makes me feel sick; a promise is a sacred thing, and there is so little that is sacred in life.  I think that having some self-worth as a person, even if it ebbs and flows sometimes, is really important, and the fact that I feel I am trustworthy, that I have dignity, and that I have the ability to give love but also am now aware that sometimes we have to say “F love” makes me a good friend and will one day mean that I might be a good boyfriend and not feel so ugly at my lowest… These things give me hope, they give me something to aspire to, and I hope to at the end of my life be able to look back and say that I was a good person, I was a strong person and that I did myself proud.  Work in progress.