The Internet is Ruining the Social Lives of Gay People! HIDE YOUR CATS! AND BEARS!

Let me start out with this idea I have for Web 3.0. It’s like the point. Of this. What you’re looking at. The point of this is to eventually get more humans speaking eye-to-eye. When we decided to have a Pride Party in NYC only a few months after Autostraddle’s launch, we didn’t expect any of the interns to come, let alone ALL of them. But they all came. Seriously, all of them except one; came.

This article in The New York Times via The San Francisco Bay-Citizen attempts to lament how technology has harmed gay culture, but I disagree with the tone of the piece, though I respect its factual accuracy:

“I’m sad,” said Darwin Bebo, an event organizer for the past nine years, noting a lack of volunteers and a decline in registrations — to 550 this year from nearly 1,000 in 2006. “They’re already talking online, so they don’t need a club.”

Mr. Bebo blamed the Internet. As online social networks have surged in popularity with gay men and lesbians, many social groups have been in decline.

The tug of war between the virtual and physical worlds is happening in every strata of society, but in the gay community the shift has been especially poignant and with significant implications. Social groups helped start the gay civil rights movement, and in recent decades they have raised millions of dollars for causes like same-sex marriage and the battle against H.I.V./AIDS.

This has left some wondering, as social groups wane, who or what will pick up the rainbow flag.

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I’m not sure if it’s trying to succeed, or just floating a theory. Clearly the article is true, but the mood of it seems excessively wistful and fails to recognize that it’s not that all of the bears are at home on their computers instead of coming to the annual national convention. It’s that they’re at the bar with ten people right there in their own town who they initially met online. It’s that they don’t have to travel all that way just to connect to someone who understood one fucking thing about their lives. If it’s true that gay social clubs have been in a decline then I’d expect similar numbers from other groups like Star Trek fans or role-playing game-playing people. Whatever they’re called.

People keep taking in-real-life social situations and re-imagining them in a new space — CYBERSPACE. But it’s possible to have it work the other way, too, and people have done it.

I don’t know, that seems like progress to me. But I do hope you’ll keep coming to Pride.

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2847 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. Political Scientists have been whinging about the decline of voluntary associations for at least the last 20 years.

    I agree with you that the internet has provided new ways for people to connect. Generally my overall feeling is it is the groups that are unable to adapt and connect with people through the internet are the ones to suffer.

    Also, check plus to Dafydd Thomas!

  2. Yesterday I was at a gay [man] bar, full of ennui-tainted awkwardness and not enjoying the overpriced-bastardization of a gin rickey in my hand.

    I was thinking, “I just want to go home, play MMORPGs, read tumblr, and drink my quality gin. I don’t need in-person socialization. My gaming buddies need me for a raid, etc…”

    But I have been trying to have a better social life IRL…so I stayed, but felt I should have gone home. :/

    • This reminded me of The Guild, when they all decide to meet in person for the first time. Do you know what I’m talking about? At first I wasn’t sure what triggered it, but I’m pretty sure it was when you said (I’M SORRY – WHEN YOU TYPED), “play MMORPGs”. Even if the moral of your story has no direct relation to how that particular episode of The Guild ended up though…but still…

  3. Pfff. Without the internet I wouldn’t have known a) that gay was a thing you could legitimately be and b) that it might explain all my feeeeelings. So in a land without internet the various LGBT groups I’ve attended/supported/worked for wouldn’t have had e.g. more of my time — they’d never have seen me, and I’d be married to my ex-bf like “Why am I so unhappy every day?”

    In conclusion: the internet = gay magic land, this = the 21st century, whiners = shut up. Good day to you.

    • The truth, you speak it. Especially “I wouldn’t have known a) that gay was a thing you could legitimately be and b) that it might explain all my feeeeelings.” I think this is a true thing for a looootttt of people out there. Maybe the gays aren’t congregating like they used to (I have no idea, I’m inclined to disagree anyway), but there are definitely more people coming out to themselves thanks to the internets.

  4. hey. hello. what about gay people in all the other parts of the world who gain access to gay content on the internet? my life would be 80% incomplete without the internet and 30% incomplete without autostraddle.

    there are no gay bars in my country/city that I know of. i have nowhere to go. gay clubs, my ass. gay people here have barely anywhere to go. and OUT gay people? forget about it.

    the internet is amazing and wonderful and here i can talk about my feelings without the fear. here i can find people to connect with. it’s incredibly myopic to lament the decline of gay clubs because in other countries where there are no gay clubs there is a rising tide of the ABILITY as well as willingness to spread more awareness about gay people. all of this would not be possible without the internet.

  5. When I was first considering my Debut into the world of Out-there-ness, I considered going to the Bisexual Ladies group in town. Then I read their terrible, terrible lit mag. And realized that I did not want to spend ANY TIME AT ALL hanging out with these post-hippies who could not spell. I said to myself, “This Bisexual Ladies group is not The One. The Universe has something better in store.” I realized that I wanted to read Autostraddle and 80% of all other lesbian pop culture sites, watch gay movies, go to gay grad school and hang out with my choice selection of IRL gay friends. Working out marvelously!!!

  6. I agree with a lot of the other commenters. Without the internet I would not have come out of the closet. My first little moments of saying to other people (as opposed to obsessing over it in my head) were on the internet. And I’m not a wee young thing, I’ve been using the internet for a good 15 years (wait…WHAT. Where the HELL did 15 years go??!!).

    My little 15 year old self needed the internet – living in the middle of freakin nowhere with no gay friends, or even any whiff of homosexuality nearby, with the internet I had people to connect with.

    I met these people in real life, when I was 17, at the local university LGB society. I would *never* have plucked up the courage to go their meetings had I not spoken to them online beforehand.

    When I moved to Scotland (from Ireland), I met a lot of lovely gays there via the internet (hey, Kel!), whom I never would have met otherwise.

    The internet has giving me real-life friendships that have lasted vastly longer than a lot of my non-internet ones. I put it down to the fact that the internet allows you to weed out people who you don’t have all that much in common with, and puts you in contact with a lot more people that you DO have shared interests with

  7. the internet is probably ruining the social lives of EVERYONE, but i don’t think it’s actually “ruining” it. it’s just different than how it was before. and i don’t think we can say yet whether it’s good or bad.

  8. Without the internet I probably would have never come out and would be a miserable, depressed lump in my bed today. So, there’s that. I haven’t had so much luck making local friends over the internet, but there seems to be a limited selection of local ladies online, seeing as OkCupid recommends me the same five users repeatedly.

  9. i don’t know about this internet thing; i’ve met most of my homo friends through alcoholics anonymous. Man, do we queers like to drink!

    but for serious, i spend a fair amount of time meeting the gays online, but still spend plenty of time outside the apartment with actual real life gay folks. and straight ones too! I wouldn’t say the internet has helped nor hindered my ability to find my people. that said, my bff and i run a social network for queer artists, so we’re trying to help hook up the arty gays in the land of cyberspace, with hopes of great collaborations and friendships evolving. By the way, I’m not kidding about that AA thing. It is packed full of homosexers.

  10. Internet and particularly Autostraddle have been hugely helpful to me and mean I actually am socializing with people when I’m on the internet. I’m introverted, I don’t like going out and being around groups, the internet lets me still connect with people in a way that is more comfortable and less terrifying. Plus, like others above said, without the internet I don’t think I would have realized that being gay was option or that it explained my feelings.

  11. So…just a quick question really – am I the only one who read the title of this article in the style of Antoine Dodson (aka The Bed Intruder Song guy)?

    “Wellllllst, OBVIOUSLY…the internet is ruining the social LIVES of GAY PEOPLE HIDE YOUR CATS! HIDE YOUR BEARS!(x3) AND HIDE YOUR HUMMUS ‘CUZ THEY RUININ’ EVERYBODY OUT HERE!”

  12. I dont think the internet is ruining anything. Its all about balance. The internet is a tool that we use to be social, and perhaps it’s the only thing that works for some of us that dont have any other options. But i do believe that as human beings we need to try to keep our face to face interactions strong as well. Its another way of feeding the soul when we can share experiences that we are passionate about in the physical world. Eye contact, touch and hearing the sound of someone’s voice helps to build connections between people that cant be experienced through the use of skype or text. As much as I love to interact with women online, I’d much rather hang out with them in person.

  13. The debate over the damage social media and online networks are doing to physical social interactions has been going on so long, it hurts. The internet has created to (as many have already said) a place to find and connect with yourself and others like you. I think that gay social networks – as well as any social network based on commonality, for that matter – have allowed for many connections to be made that otherwise may have been impossible… and I don’t think the rules of the internet bar these from being taken offline. Social groups online allow people to safely seek out others of the community (locally or globally) without having to walk the streets with a rainbow neon arrow and a megaphone. I live in a large Canadian city, and without the glorious internet, I would be completely unaware of the quickly growing gay community here.

    The internet is not here to completely replace the physical world… it can compliment it as well. The two are not mutually exclusive, they can both exist without causing the gay universe to implode.

  14. socializing via the interwebs is awesome. almost all the homogays I know are on the internet. seriously, I know less than 10 in this lovely conservative place I’m in and “knowing” more so means knowing that they are gay and doesn’t so much mean that I actually spend time with these people just cause we have nothing in common except being gay. that was a tangent.

    anyways, the internet is awesome. I love it. I’ve pretty much grown up with it. etc. etc. still, it can’t replace that face-to-face interaction. one of the things I hate is that the friends I have online live so far away b/c we can’t hang out. I don’t think human contact is something people are going to give up completely just b/c they can sit at home and chat online.

  15. i love the tinternet you can talk to many,many other gay people from all over the world,we are still not free yet,so those of us in rural areas can have some kind of outlet talkin to other gay people….BUT….its not the same as beng around other gay people in the fleash and in a gay enviroment,to physicaly and socialey interact..SITTING ALONE BEHINDE A COMPUTER SCREEN IS NO SUBBSTITUTE FOR PHYSICALY BEING WITH PEOPLE,makeing eye contact just that act of socializeing..again thank god for the internet but we need to do both ,virtually and in the real world

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