[Out.com, 17 August 2006]
Richard Morgan explains why gay college students have lost their mojo.
By RICHARD MORGAN
I was an undergrad for four years (class of ’01) and have been reporting and writing about college life for five. Chances are, I’ve visited your alma mater. People always seem to think their college is unique; it isn’t. Neither are the students, really. But these students today are the least interesting I’ve ever seen—especially the gay ones.
The problem? Electronic venues—Facebook, Friendster, MySpace—along with constant IM and texting, have sapped the community from gays. It’s all “sup?” “nm u?” “me 2,” “cool,” “k, later.” Friendsterships, not friendships. Communication, not conversation. Drama, not life. It prompts the kind of sad lameness that gets people to type “LOL” somberly into their keyboard while they pay attention to five other IM conversations with five other “best friends”—all of whom don’t know each other’s last names, their majors, or their hometowns.
There are facts involved: A Duke study showing 25 percent of people have zero “close friends.” Zero! Or a national survey in March of 1,200 students at 100 colleges where beer—for only the second time in 18 years—fell to the #2 spot on what’s “in” on campuses, second to iPods—and tied with Facebook (the other time, 1997, beer was behind the Internet). Gay students are especially vulnerable to this nerd alert given that an important part of being gay (or closeted) is seeking out other people with whom you can discuss your feelings and feel less freakish. The online world has intimacy, but mostly it’s just intimacy in the sense of hooking up and swapping pics, not in the sense of being able to have a Friendster friend or “best friend” you can turn to in tears if your parents disown you for coming out.
Gays used to have a reputation for being outgoing and secure (“proud”), but these social sites are turning them into laptop hermits desperate to pile on more fake friends. Gay college students have become stuck to their laptops in numbers previously experienced only by computer science majors, hackers, and nerds who play EverQuest and “gaming” shit like that. While I was hanging out with gay University of Texas seniors this spring, one of them actually got a text on his phone asking him to log onto MySpace so he could talk with his friend there.
Of course, everyone on every campus is chained to their cell phone and IM window, not just gay students. But whatever happened to gays being the vanguard of society? Having a cell phone used to mean gays could communicate anywhere they went; now it means they can ignore people wherever they are. How can gays push boundaries when they’d rather push mouse buttons to check their in boxes for new e-mail? “Alternative” has to mean more than IMs with different-colored fonts.
The biggest danger, though, is the no-turning-back narcotic quality of living most of your life electronically: When you can IM with six “buddies” at once, suddenly a dinner with one friend—just one?!—seems boring and unfulfilling, even though it is likely much more substantive than popular IM banter. Look, I IM. I’m on Friendster and Facebook and MySpace. But what’s popular isn’t always right. And what’s right isn’t always popular. Whether you think I’m a dick or an asshole, one thing is clear: Gay college students are in some sore need of growing balls and getting out in the real world, not the virtual one.
back to home page