Relationships, the gay world and ‘social networking’

…as part of an attempt at explaining why so many relationships (by which I mean friendships also) in the gay world (and wider, but it seems to be magnified here) are transitory, shallow and ultimately worthless. In one sense this isn’t anything new, but I think social networking has definitely made it more pervasive. People chat online – a form of dialogue which is very controlled and particular, where it is easy to project whichever image of yourself you want to see reflected back at you – and feel that they know each other. They then become ‘friends’ and hang out together, more often than not going out and drinking, but when it comes to it they don’t really know the slightest thing about each other and don’t really care about each other. The ‘real’ friendship becomes an extension of the online one, where the ultimate aim is to have a certain idea of yourself affirmed. I think the sad fact is that almost all of us have these kinds of relationships with some people; the even sadder thing is that I see entire groups of ‘friends’ who seem to have them with each other.

Then there is the fact that, even ten years ago, you would meet someone and get to know them over time. Now you meet someone (on those increasingly rare occasions where you meet someone outside of the online world) and then go off and start messaging them and chatting and making plans. Everything is sped up and perhaps we neglect the effort necessary to create that special connection that makes a relationship rewarding in the rush. Not to mention the fact that as soon as you meet someone these days all of your friends (and their friends) can and do swiftly move in and start messaging each other and nothing seems particularly intimate.

If there is any ‘point’ to life then surely right up there jostling for top position must be making connections with people and getting the rich rewards that come from that. In the gay world you see lots of people fucking each other then moving onto the next one, fucking them and then onto the next one. A revolving door that goes nowhere. Which is not to criticise promiscuity, but when you don’t even know why you are doing it and/or confuse it with intimacy, then something has gone wrong. Something that grows out of this is that you have heaps of people in relationships because they fancy each other and get along quite well – not because they feel amazing just being with each other, not because they think that the person they’re with is the best person in the world at that moment. They break up, feel sad for a day and then move onto the next one. It’s a place holding relationship to prevent people from being ‘alone’ and having to face up to the things they don’t like to think about, and their friends whose internal lives they know nothing about do the same and perpetuate it.

Make no mistake, these things have changed a lot even in the time I have been ‘an adult’. I cannot comprehend how a 16 year old must approach relationships now – is it essentially the same as when I was 16 (15 years ago!) with bolt-ons, or fundamentally altered, forever?

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