Ooh, this is a tough one. I would say technology. Technology is already showing to be disconnecting people from one another, but I feel this is especially true for the gay community.
Social media apps alone can take up so much of people’s attention, energy, and time. This makes it tougher to connect with people in person. Not that we would necessarily need to connect with people in person anymore as social media lets us watch their lives unfold on a screen. Oftentimes, there’s nothing left to talk about so we don’t reach out.
Specifically, in the gay community, we have an additional layer with gay apps like Grindr, Scruff, etc. I don’t think these apps are bad per se. In fact, they have been able to connect people in ways we hadn’t been able to before. But there’s a second edge to that sword that really concerns me.
People gathering in person is what makes a community and that is happening less and less because of technology. Bars have typically been the gathering places for the gay community and they are seeing fewer patrons than ever these days. People are just staying home to find one another on their screens. And I don’t believe being online creates that same kind of community.
I also think it has conditioned people to be more afraid to talk to each other in person. Hitting up someone online is less scary, which we have all gotten accustomed to. But being able to introduce yourself to someone in person can create a bigger impact with one another. It also helps us be kinder to one another because we are less likely to dish out cruel rejection when face-to-face.
Which is the last thing. People are nastier online. Because they can hide behind a screen, they aren’t as concerned with the consequences of being mean to other people. More and more, I am hearing people label our community as especially cruel and unaccepting. I don’t feel like I heard those things as much a decade ago.
The fact of the matter is that technology never moves backward. This trajectory will continue to move forward. Really, none of us can predict what this looks like so I don’t want to be grim about it.
Ironically, I think what keeps the gay community together currently is the fight against bigotry, hate, and inequality. As long as there is homophobia and discrimination, we will still band together at least enough to fight for our rights, even in the age of divisive technology.