Columnists » Ask Angelo

Man or machine?

by Angelo Pezzote
Wednesday Jun 2, 2010

Last time I wrote about a new networking App on the iPhone (Grindr), saying in essence that while the convenience of modern technology has its useful place nowadays, I get concerned when it supplants human interaction. This is especially true when I see people sharing the same space (social venue) who seem to be more interested in being on their iPhones than in mingling and talking to the people around them. Generalize to the ordinary obstacles in finding friendship and love as a gay man in the world today and...point taken -- it's not easy out there.

I suggested interacting with technology to dodge interacting with real people stemmed from a fear of intimacy. I've since pondered, could this fear of intimacy funnel down to a fear of rejection? I asked myself, do gay men find it easier to be rejected by a machine than a real person? Makes sense. I mean most of us know rejection only all too well: feeling different in childhood, picked last for the team, bullied, chastised by the religious communities we were born into, dissed by parents, neighbors, bosses, coworkers, organizations, oppressed by society, legislators, laws, leaders, national policy, and the list goes on. Perhaps being highly sensitized to rejection day to day growing up and in adulthood, many of us may be more comfortable scouting things out first when it comes to flirting. Better to play it safe and send a cyber feeler: a smile, wink, poke, IM, or email than risk being ignored, walked away from, snubbed, a cutting comment, or a flat out "drink in the face" in real time. Such hurtful experiences can reawaken painful wounds of embarrassment, humiliation, and shame that lie deep in our core. Not to mention our safety from a sexually confused brute saying, "What? I'm not gay!," a punch, or worse. Bearing the scars of life long marginalization, utilizing the Internet as a precautionary shield is an understandable strategy, deserving of compassion.

However, don't we have ourselves to blame too? Yes, many of us may be inclined to be in the fantasyland of cyberspace because we're mistreated in real space. But it's not just from unkindness by straights and society. We're not always kind to each other. I mean it seems, generally speaking, like the majority of gay men (at least in our big cities) aren't automatically that warm and fuzzy toward one another. I wonder, if we didn't routinely stand one another off like bitches with an attitude, maybe a fair share of us wouldn't be so mean. I think many of us can walk around like Godzilla on steroids, not because we're naturally spiteful, but because we've been hurt (rejected -- by others, a part of ourselves, and one another); because we're disconnected (maybe even lonely), and afraid to be rejected again. So we put up a wall. Some insightful person said, "hurt people, hurt people." In other words, people who hurt others are people who are hurting themselves. Gandhi wrote of the dangers of the oppressed becoming the oppressors. It's a vicious cycle: you love, you get rejected, you try again harder, you get hurt, you give it your best, you get rejected, you try desperately, you get hurt, you stop trying eventually, you no longer give anyone a chance to hurt you, you shut down, you get lonely/sad, you get mean, you get more lonely/sad, you get more mean...-- A chain of pain ensues, creating a climate of hostility. Perhaps we try and escape, soothing our pain with addiction, unsafe sex, or isolation.

I'm shouting, "stop!" This is no way to live! We can turn things around for ourselves as a community. I challenge all of us to open our hearts and embrace one another in Love. We don't have to live on some pink cloud. We can peek out from behind our phones, PDA's, computers - the masks - today. You're brave enough to disarm, smile, look someone in the eye, shake hands, be friendly, and say "hello." It can start with YOU. One person. Things like this can have a ripple effect, reach a critical mass, and soften an entire brotherhood. If you're sick and tired of the way things are among a large swath of gay men, then be the first to change. Be the love you want in the world. It's contagious, and will return to you like a boomerang.

All The Best, Angelo

Angelo Pezzote is a leading gay therapist in sexuality, gender, and trauma, author, resident edge columnist, and national speaker. He has appeared on Montel, CBS News on LOGO, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, and in The New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Advocate, MSN/,, and other leading print and online media. His book, "Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity, and Finding True Love" is available at and in bookstores. He works by Skype, phone, and in-person. He is based out of Miami / Ft lauderdale.

Visit for more and friend him on facebook


  • antonio, 2010-06-04 20:52:15

    I think you make valid points. I can relate with seperating yourself from everyone because of fear of getting hurt. I’ve gotten better and less afraid. Now I try to help friends improve also, makes me feel sad seeing them and reminding me of how I used to be.

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook