During the summertime, Jeffrey, an excellent and ebullient high school student, pursues his online life from 2 a.M. To 8:30 p.M. He belongs to the disembodied and free world of being gay, where he can find “buddies” in public chat rooms or other areas of the gay online community. This is a potential disaster for gay teenagers, as it allows them to explore a life separate from their straight lives. For example, AOL’s “locate” feature allows subscribers to find online buddies in the gay world. Jeffrey, a junior in high school and avid ‘N Sync fan, uses instant messaging services to engage in real-time dialogue with his friends. While he uses the internet to communicate with his high school friends, his computer is heavily guarded with passwords and codes.
Initially, he expressed his hesitation to explore the online homosexual community, fearing that he would inevitably be discovered. “I had this thought that someone would invade my computer and uncover everything,” he explained. “The level of paranoia was extremely high.” Following the advice of many internet experts on safety precautions when interacting with strangers online, he adopted a pseudonym, altered his hometown, and made several other modifications to his actual identity. He claimed to come from a wealthy background, drive a BMW, possess attractive features, and be 18 years old, which made him eligible to engage in conversations within adult gay chat rooms. Consequently, he decided to take the logical course of action.
In June of this year, he gathered his courage and started confessing to his online acquaintances that he was not exactly the person they had believed. “One of my very close homosexual friends has completely distanced himself from me now,” he sadly informed me one month after publicly revealing his true self online. “He has completely changed his email, his username, everything. He used to be extremely cautious about who he allowed into his inner circle. He let me in, but he allowed this false identity as well. When he found out, he blocked me.” (To “block” someone means to prevent them from seeing your online status or sending you instant messages or emails.) However, as his online friendships grew stronger, the fabricated aspects of Jeffrey’s story began to weigh him down: “I felt like I couldn’t be authentic in real life, and even on the Internet, I still couldn’t be genuine. Yes, I’m homosexual, but it’s all a deception.”
“Jeffrey, while explaining, expressed, ‘I still have feelings for you, but I am not familiar with who you truly are.’ Jeffrey informed C. About the complications that arose due to his dishonesty online, and although C. Forgave him, they emphasized that they had never met in person. Despite referring to Jeffrey as his ‘true love,’ Jeffrey clarified that C., Who is a year older and also from the South like Jeffrey, only knew him by his first name initial, C., When they were dating online last summer.”