Storie by Clément Guinamard. Translation by Melissa Kathryn
What are my chances of meeting Prince Charming if I’m not on any dating applications? Will I ever have another orgasm since I uninstalled Grindr? We live in a time where dating consists of likes, selfies, ghosting… but what if we disconnected?
Earlier this year, at the dawn of a burning hot summer, I made a decision that would change my life, transforming my love life more than ever before. In one fell swoop, I uninstalled all social media apps, changed my cell phone number, and desactivated my email address. I had committed social suicide, all because of a digital burnout. No more notifications. Only silence. But what happens when suddenly, there’s nothing?
My online existence began at the age of thirteen. First, on Myspace, where I first discovered my talent for CSS/HTLM code! Visitors to my home page were violently greeted by a Klaxon’s song that played on a loop: an invitation to join my pop and acid universe. The creation of my online personality was already in the works. I looked cool, keeping with the latest trends from Colette and WAD.
“We discovered that our generation wasn’t very wise, and social media was mainly used for one thing: seeking approval through deception.”
Soon, everything I did was meticulously calculated to attract only the coolest ‘friends.’ At that time, Myspace was a safe place where shared coding tips, and where we all dreamed of being Tom's friend and making it to his ‘Top Five’. Then, the arrival of Facebook in 2008 screwed everything up. Everything went to hell when a major bug publicly exposed users’ private conversation. We discovered that our generation wasn’t very wise, and social media was mainly used for one thing: seeking approval through deception.
As a millennial born in the mid 90's (the day MR Vain by Culture Beat and Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover were released, to be more precise) it was predestined: I would quickly become dependent on the freedom the internet offered. Greater than research, information, and technological developments, the new digital tool hooked up to ADSL allowed me to create via URL the person I dreamed of being IRL: A cool, handsome, popular guy - everything I struggled to be.
“As we create ourselves in the digital age, the deep feeling of loneliness that consumes us is solidified by the visceral need to be loved.”
Growing up in a bourgeoise, homophobic suburb, the connections I made on the net helped me survive, meet others, to develop awareness, and my sexuality.
I used to surf for hours, dexterously switching between apps, hoping being loved, to be ‘liked’, to be swiped, to be shared, to be made love to by webcam, all with one goal: that someone would see me, that someone would be interested in me.
As we create ourselves in the digital age, the deep feeling of loneliness that consumes us is solidified by the visceral need to be loved. I fell in love with an entire neighborhood, I flirted with countless passers-by who never look beyond their never look past their screens, I've entertained followers with stories that could make any shrink cry. There were those evenings when I talked to so many different men on an unthinkable number of apps, that the next day I was as exhausted as after a night making love.
“What is left of our love when our mobile screen goes black?”
Those moments afterwards, when a one-hour-lover forgets me just as quickly as I arrived. It’s gloom that scares you the most; in the dark it waits for you, filling you with anxiety to finally send you back to that toxic friend from whom you run away, but who remains faithful to you: your solitude.
I had cold sweats, and lost all hope when I realized that a long-distance fling was in fact nothing more than a moment where the other feared the emptiness of his existence. But then he has a change of heart, and you cease to exist.
What is left of our love when our mobile screen goes black? We relearn to look at each other without a filter. To get dressed without the other’s feedback; To be naked without taking a picture. To speak without holding onto a screen as interlocutor. To abandon oneself to the games of love without fear of being swiped.
My name is Clement, and I no longer have any social applications.
Request me as a friend, to be continued...