Cyberspaces of Tenderness

Just like everyone else, my relationship with media is complicated and, well, weird. Brought up in the age of praising and villainizing smartphones, I always had mixed feelings toward ICT devices. But, maybe, the most important thing that media taught me is the tenderness of parasocial relationships. “But online relationships – platonic or romantic – are not real!”, I get that a lot and still I’m not going to get into the whole “what makes relationships real” thing now. For the sake of this, just take my word for it: mediated affection is an actual thing that can make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. What I mean is: I met my best friend of six years on Wattpad when I was 13; we are currently living wall to wall and if I need to tell her something I just have to knock on her door. Sometimes we do laundry together and watch all the TV shows we said we’d watch when we spend time face to face. Then, I fell in love, dated, broke up with, and ghosted a person whom I met on Tumblr last year in April – now we’re friends and they’re one of the people I love the most. When I think about domestic bliss it’s us eating spring rolls and playing “Breath of the Wild” on their couch. There’s a guy in Canada who understands my hype for Avatar: The Last Airbender and with whom I play Dungeons&Dragons two Fridays a month. He tells me good morning when he goes to sleep. I knew this girl from middle school, but we never talked. This year, she DM’d me on Instagram and we started hanging out. Sometimes she says something or shows me a picture that makes her happy and I’m overwhelmed with the tenderness and softness I have for her. I found out I wasn’t straight on Wattpad when I was 12: a girl from Wisconsin told me how she fell in love with her girlfriend and the thought of kissing a girl slithered its way in my brain. Oh. Oh. This is a thing. Tumblr – yes, Tumblr is still a thing in 2021 – helped me realize I am genderqueer, because non-binary people I followed were talking about their experiences and it dawned on me that there was a name for this weird awkwardness I felt towards my identity. So maybe social media isn’t all milk and honey, this sweet thing that brings only wholesomeness in your life. But there is love online, because after all, media are just as human as we are.

Student number: 13635174


Published by Life in Media

Website dedicated to the Media Life/Life in Media project of Mark Deuze, Professor of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

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