All of our desires on display on a screen. All of our wants readily available for dissection and derision from strangers

Une du Star Ledger (30 sept. 2010) citant le dernier statut Facebook de Tyler Clementi annonçant son suicide

[...] for the hundredth time that day, I envisioned Ricky negotiating El Monte Springs, planning ways to escape, contemplating relationships, texting his sister, falling in love, sitting at his computer, and typing to a man he thought might introduce him to a life he could unequivocally embrace.

It’s not like he was in a car accident or something else that wasn’t really newsworthy. If that’d been the case, people would’ve talked about his shortened future or whatever, but in this case? No. They just wanted to place blame somewhere. Guns. Parents. Education. Technology. Small-town life. Homophobia. High school politics. You name it.”
“It’s like all of us, Ricky included, stopped being people when it all happened. We became causes, things to blame. It sucked. ’Cause, again, if it’d been a car accident, Ricky’d be a person who died too soon instead of a person to figure out.”

It was an awful feeling, like not only was there a brick wall but there was something trying to get through that brick wall and not something nice. Maybe it was how he was grinding his teeth? I don’t remember him ever doing that, not when he was a kid, not ever. And his eyes were totally glazed, not like with drugs but with I don’t know, like nothing, like no feeling at all, like dead. It gives me shivers just to think about and write about.

* * * * * * * 

“I think we all know—somewhere deep inside, somewhere we don’t want to explore, somewhere maybe close to the subconscious—that the chances of us living the life we want, the life we’ve envisioned, are very slim. We have to make do. And the digital age has plastered that ‘making do’ for everyone to see while simultaneously mandating that we be more. Achievements become ‘likes.’ Thoughts become ‘shares.’ Emotions become comments at the bottom of a video. It’s a digital tapestry of unanswered prayers, and if you look really close at it all, you see this enormous wall of human misery.”

“But that misery will be there no matter what, even if there were no Internet.”
“Sure, but the Internet highlights and amplifies it. The minute you plug in, you’re assaulted by millions of lonely people desperately seeking validation for their existence.” 

“It just seems so sad to me,” he said. “All of us communicating like this. All of our desires on display on a screen. All of our wants readily available for dissection and derision from strangers.” 

In North Dakota, my parents assumed I’d succumbed to some gay disease and, as a last resort, they called in a panic.
“What’s happening?” my mother said. “You’re not anywhere.”
“I’m here,” I said. “Just not online.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!”
“Just call if you want to chat,” I said.
“What? Who calls anymore?”
What pushed me back to technology wasn’t the communication or logistical inefficiencies, though they certainly added to the speed of my reunion, but rather the malignant sense of missing out on the world. Without social media, I’d become erased and uninvited, defriended and devalued, ostracized from an insistently mobile society; I was the guy everyone avoided, for fear he discover that he hadn’t been asked to the party, and this constant disconnection felt like an unreachable itch in the middle of my back. 

 “I have a question,” I said, feeling suddenly wise and older. [...] What’s it mean to be a Facebook friend of someone? [...] I mean, that word, ‘friend.’ It’s different nowadays.”
“You talk like you’re really old.”[...]
“Just that word, to me—‘friend.’ Seems messed-up. Like would you do what you did to Ricky if he was a real friend? [...] Would he have done that to you if you were a real friend? I mean. No. Just seems like the word ‘friend’ is different now.”
Course I was thinking about Seinfeld again, that perfect and fuckin’ hilarious four-piece friend group. Could a show like that exist today? I wondered. Or was friendship something different, like maybe something less tight? I wondered about friendship a lot, because all I saw anymore were groups of people together on their phones, like they always wanted to be somewhere else or with someone else. It was creepy to me sometimes, even at work, seeing random coworkers stopped in different places throughout the factory staring at their phones. Like these things had some sort of alien force we couldn’t look away from for even a few minutes. Was one reason I never got an iPhone myself. Also, I just didn’t care about enough people’s lives that much to look them up on the Internet. If I was gonna help someone in the Springs, I was gonna do it in person, not online.

* * * * * * *

So yeah, being away gave me a new outlook on Corky as well as everything else about the Springs, and I found, weirdly, that even with all the stuff that had taken place, even with all the drama and sadness and anger, I could sometimes feel real love for things I’d always thought I’d hate forever.

In the greasy yellow haze of the fast-food restaurant, she looked less friendly, less adolescent, more damaged, more worn. Though her body, even in its full state, secreted youth, her eyes contained small flecks of aged, reddened grief. She would become old quickly, I knew. Most people in places like this did.

I was a girl, and as a girl, I knew my whole life was an act. I was supposed to make people feel comfortable even when I was unhappy. I was supposed to pretend I didn’t fart or shit. I was supposed to make boys feel like they were supersmart all the time, and I was supposed to act like a virgin no matter how many guys I’d screwed. As a girl, I knew how to be fake, because all I was expected to be was fake. The world got handed to people like Mark McVitry just for being born, but for us, for me, for Alexandra B, for Ricky—we had to work. We had to perform.

It was really hard to read my dad. He had this stony face all the time, like he didn’t show any expression unless someone really pushed his buttons. After everything, he did what he was supposed to as a dad, I guess; he supported with his silence. He was just there, and my mom was the one who talked. And I knew that was how it was with a lot of moms and dads, but sometimes I just wished he talked more, wasn’t so fuckin’ mysterious. For a long time, I didn’t know if he thought I was to blame, if he was just holding that in, or if he thought I really had turned into a freak.

 James Han Mattson - The lost prayers of Ricky Graves (Little A-2017)