Social media have allowed us to interact and connect in ways not possible just a decade ago. They have made it easier for us to track down long-lost friends and to learn about their present doings. Even as I write this, I am chatting on Facebook with an Australian gay man who, like many of our readers, differs from the norm of our community; he reached out to me after discovering the blog.
Facebook has also allowed me to see a phenomenon I first witnessed when I came out in the 1990s, of the loneliness of many gay men, perhaps a loneliness paralleled among our straight peers, but one which, at times,seems unique to our particular situation. And Facebook magnifies it. Some men seek solace in identifying with a political group, fearing to differ in one iota from its ideology, lest their peers cut them off. Others relate the most mundane items of their day, as if that will help link them to the outside world.
Here we have this means of instant (virtual) connection and yet all too many of us aren’t really connecting.
These observations have caused me to revisit some (somewhat) dormant ideas about loneliness — and that too human hunger for real connection, for friends who see us we are and in whose presence we feel part of the universe because to truly feel part of the universe, we must, all of us, feel some connection to our fellow man. And not just the connection of their physical presence, but a meaningful bond where they delight in our idiosyncrasies — and they in ours.
Understanding that, I found it very hard to watch the 1964 Bette Davis movie Dead Ringer, a film where the screen siren plays twin sisters, with the less financially fortunate Edith Phillips murdering her more wealthy sister Margaret in order to assume her identity and live in luxury. As soon as Edie commits the crime, then puts on her sister’s clothes and goes to her house, all I could think about was how miserable her new life would be, no longer able to spend time with the Karl Malden‘s Jim Hobbson, the cop who truly appreciates her–cut off not just from him, but from her friends in the bar she manages.
I just couldn’t believe that anyone, well into middle age, with real friends would want to give them all up for a chance at riches. And yet some people do.
After all, what is wealth if you have no one with whom to share it?
Sometimes, I think, some gay people (and perhaps some straight as well) sacrifice their personal passions in order to conform socially — to feel like they belong. And while they may have companions, people with whom to do things, they fail to connect and, still feel alone. Perhaps, that’s why some of us drink and others take drugs, with still others seeking solace in other addictions.
I don’t know that I have all the answers to this problem, but I do think it’s high time we give more thought to the problem of loneliness in our community and reach out to those among us in need of simple human fellowship and a genuine appreciation of their passions.