Lately people have been asking me how I think being a misfit teen is different today from in the past. I’ve been saying something to the effect of this: Even though there was a real precious quality to the hard-won connections I and my friends managed to make with one another in the pre-Internet age, and I wouldn’t give that experience up for anything, people did fall through the cracks, people didn’t manage to find what they were looking for, because this stuff was so hard to find and it often wasn’t enough just to want it really strongly. And that now that there’s the Internet, it’s impossible to feel completely alone (I have been saying glibly) and it’s impossible to feel isolated (I’ve been singing gaily) and it’s impossible to really believe that there’s nobody else who could understand you (I’ve been blabbing with my blindfold on).
All these queer teen suicides make it clear that I’m completely wrong, of course. People can feel isolated and hopeless even if there is a machine on their desk capable of telling them otherwise. Maybe it’s hard to believe such a message when it comes from a machine. In the case of the Rutgers suicide, when a boy jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate basically broadcast a webchat video of him hooking up with a boy, the Internet was not the fix for but the vehicle of his humiliation.
Fortunately we also have queer celebrities now who are willing to create online campaigns to counter this. Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. And this video from Ellen, which is really worth watching. But I’m still wondering if a message from a machine is really enough.
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