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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sticky Keyboards

You are of course reading this online. Which is where I, and many of us, spend an increasing amount of our time now. In fact, I spend way too much time here. Apart from reading my favourite blogs, overseas newspapers, local ones, & checking youtube, there's Facebook to update and play on, (stop buying all my pets! You know who you are!) Livejournal for a slightly different set of friends around the world, gaynz, and of course, all those fantastic gay sex dating sites. And have you checked out!?!? And think how much poorer our lives would be without access to lolcats?

Not to mention the more legitimate uses, such as doing academic research through databases. And I should make it clear I'm really writing about the world I know, gay men online, not the other segments of the queer world.

Even though I had net access at uni, my introduction to the online world really began in 2001 and I went online at home, when kind friends passed on their old PC to me. I was hooked. One-handed typing had its attractions, but I don't know why, I no longer find cyber interesting.

gay .com, or as other friends called it, gay.dum was my main social site at first. And I met quite a few hot men there, quite a few good men, and sometimes they even were combined. Also met some two-faced lying bastards but hey ... that's another blog. I'd sit down and chat, in the old days before photos and so on were easily available (the net was steam-powered back then) . Just chat for ages to all sorts of people all over the place.

Hours slipped past - not for nothing is the net called a timesink. It is easy to watch it all just disappear in a day. In fact at times it seemed that talking online was better than talking in real time. Now that's odd when you think about it.

Here in NZ it seems to me that men looking to hook up with guys for whatever reason, have taken to the net with a passion. I leave nzdating on in the background nearly every time I log on, and gaydar too (not at work boss, honest...) . More often it's just to swap messages with friends than to do the deed it seems, but hey, you never know your luck. Planetromeo is great too, but used too little here to be much fun. In fact I've been registered on so many different sites I've forgotten a good number of them now. every now and then I get an email from some site I joined ages ago and forgot about, but I can rarely be bothered to go back to them. If they didn't grab me in the first few weeks, they're not going to now.

But what happens to us and our social lives when we interact so much on line? There has been a lot of talk about how the net has changed, some say almost killed, gay society. Bars and clubs certainly seem to find it harder to keep a crowd. And sex. Well, why go and pay a sauna or fuck-club when you can place your order online? I order my pizza online, why not my fucks as well?

The downside to it is that all the convenience of online life tends to isolate us even more. Instead of meeting mates in bars, or of striking up conversations with strangers, whose preferences we don't know, instead of learning those social skills, such as how to confidently talk to a stranger in a bar or club, we now automatically filter out all sorts of social interaction.
In the past you didn't necessarily know what that guy you were eyeing up in the bar was into. Were you in his age-range? Were you his type? Into the same things sexually? You had to actually communicate with each other and figure these things out, and this also meant you got to talk to and meet a wider range of guys. Now, when we go online, we can typically see exactly what the other guy is into, and whether or not we fall into his set of ideal parameters. Instead of talking to a stranger, or perhaps a friend of a friend, and discovering some common ground, negotiating our lust and possible love, we now see exactly what is and isn't desired.

Hairiness/height/ethnicity/age/weight/role/ - it's all there on the screen in front of you.

We filter, they filter, and people get excluded. And the exclusion is not just sexual, it's social as well. And this is not, I suspect, a good thing for our gay world. Where we used to physically congregate, we now sit in our homes alone and chat.

I love the net, don't get me wrong, I don't want to see it end. But I guess it's like all technologies, good and bad. And the social consequences for groups like gay men have yet to be fully worked out.

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