Loneliness and Growing Up Gay on the Internet

Andy Ward
7 min readSep 10, 2021


In High School and a little thereafter I used to be an active member on a website called “LiveMocha.” The website still exists, but it has been redone and made over 20 times, and looks nothing like the website I once knew. A true “Ship of Theseus” moment. (Thanks WandaVision)

The main use for LiveMocha was a language learning community. The website reminded me a little bit of Myspace, and the lesson plans looked akin to any high school language learning software in the aughts. You built a profile and took tests dependent on the language you wanted to learn. There was even a feature where native language learners would grade your own “homework", and in return you would grade someone else’s audio or paragraphs written.

It is important to note a few things about me at the time of LiveMocha — I was still figuring out what it meant to like boys. Alternatively, while one part of my life seemed unclear, one thing seemed clear to me — and that was I was horrible at every other subject in High School except for Spanish. I would bet 10 pesos (dealers choice of which kind of peso) that there is an academic article out there that explains why so many queer people are so good with languages. We LOVE languages! There is a whole dictionary out there you have to read before you can even begin to understand Rupaul’s Drag Race, for example. The other part of this, is that throughout my high school “career” I had never really made contact with a gay person. There was one person who was out at my high school, that I remember. He used to wear a tie-dye shirt daily like it was his suit and armor, he had a lot of piercings, and he would swear like he just listened to an Eminem album. I do not remember his name, but I wish him well and thank him for his bravery. Something, I regret I was not sooner.

To speed things up and to not take up precious digital space, I will quickly note that queer people experience life a lot later than straight people. Adolescence is muddled with confusion, anger, and sadness. I felt so ostracized and alienated. I had no sports group to join and I was not smart enough for Chess Club. It is all to say — growing up gay used to suck. I hope that things have changed for the better, and I hear that nowadays most kids in high school identify as queer. Again, I have no basis for this other than I think I heard this from someone who is smart. If you are interested in the actual logistics, I would recommend getting a JSTOR license from your local library. If they don’t do that? I have no idea what to tell you. My prayer is that life is easier for kids in high school today than what I remember it being years ago. I know this is a tall order, so maybe instead I will just ask you high schoolers to stop creating such intricate dances that I feel compelled to do on TikTok.

I did not have a community in high school, so I searched for one. I remember we used to have a home computer that was shared amongst the kids. The computer never used to play the big name games I wanted it to — a lot of times it would crash because the video driver was not very good, or I assume it got many viruses from us kids downloading music from Limewire. (Allegedly) When you need to illegally torrent “Vindicated” from the Spiderman 2 soundtrack so you can walk to school moodily, you will FIND a way! This is all to say I spent a lot of time playing browser games, and one day I stumbled upon LiveMocha — which matched all of my checkboxes: was not hard on my computer, would help me continue to learn Spanish, and could possibly help me create community that I did not sense in real life.

So there I stepped into the foray of a website filled with strangers. I never saw or felt anything malicious with the site. Did I notice a tinge of horniness on the site? Uh, yeah! It was not immediate. It was gradual. I remember that I chose a cute picture as my avatar, one that made me look skinnier than I felt. I also remember a lot more men rather than women were grading my assignments, and responding “buen trabajo!” in a voice note to me. Slowly but surely I was whipping out paragraphs in Spanish and grading other people’s essays and oral assignments in English. It felt addictive. Duolingo now pales in comparison to what this site used to be.

Then randomly one Summer day I got an add from a man in Colombia who had appreciated my correction of his statements, and he wanted to see if I had time to do a video call so he could practice more. If you are surprised by the technology this website had at the time, and also shocked by the lack of security precautions this site had, you and I are the same. I did not know what to do — Skype had just become a “thing” and I was still living with my mom at the time. If she heard me talking with a 26 year old at my mere age of 17–18 — what would she think?

Most kids in high school sneak out of their house and go to ragers or steal their dad’s car and try to figure out how to give a hickey that will remain purple the next day. I did not have these options — so instead I chose to do something a bit more intimate, clandestine, and at home(an activity now COVID friendly), and I would chat up and flirt with men all around the world trying to learn English.

I was consistently having 10+ friend requests in my LiveMocha inbox a day. “Do you have MSN?” “Do you have any more pics?” “How did you learn Spanish :)” “te gustan hombres?” Attention. Men. A sense of belonging. For a short time of my life, I felt desired and hot.

On one hand, I understand there seemed to be a bit of being taken advantage of on my end. I was young (I believe of age) but without experience or the language to grapple with my emotions. I’m happy to say in all of my 1–2 years using the site I probably only saw two or three penises. There are those video roulette websites that every high schooler would go on back in the day, and I can say from experience you can see at minimum 10 penises in an hour on that site. Do I recommend you do that? Hell no. Buy porn like an adult.

Penises were few and far between but the flirting was overflowing. I remember getting into fights with some of the men I met online:

josepablo11: are you also talking to xxwhitedragonperuxx?
me: yeah! he’s teaching me Spanish and I’m helping him learn English
josepablo11: i do not want to talk to you ever again. you really hurt me. i thought we had a good thing going on

Thank god the website got shut down and then rebuilt, because if I were able to re-read those chats — well let me say this: I would have enough material for a 3 hour one man show.

My Spanish got better — and I felt a sense of duty. I was helping these random men learn English and flattery skills, and in exchange I was learning more about cultures and languages, and being comfortable with my sexuality.

I do not suggest every pre-college kid do what I do — go on some crazy language app to find community. At the end of the day, I am thankful for the weirdos online I met, but I know looking back younger Andy would have just wanted a “real life” community. Virtual learning and flirting only go so far. When the sun sets you have to boot off your computer, and these men would often go to work, or go back to their families, and I would still be left alone.

It’s fun to look back on a site that was so formative, silly, and helpful. I do not know of any website now that makes me feel that way. Twitter is inane bullshit and flooded with people vying to write their SNL packets. Instagram now feels like a mall that is only selling men’s thongs and FOMO. And Facebook, well, Facebook is just dead.

In a time when we are looking at how isolated we felt during the COVID quarantine, it is also interesting to look back at times where we felt isolated, and not only because there was a deadly virus going around town. Loneliness is an epidemic, and I want to say it kills more people than heart attacks, but again, this is not an academic paper. This is speaking from the heart. If that is incorrect, feel free to email me, but I will not update this essay.

Loneliness is sometimes unavoidable and always scary. It feels like you are falling down a dark rabbit hole without knowing when you will ever hit the bottom. It was hard when I was younger and it’s hard now — but at this age I have access to medication, therapy, and happy hours. There is a lot of learning that can be done in solitude. About yourself, and others, and about your emotions. For that — I thank my many nights of solitude growing up. However, at my old age now — I only want to make this place one where everyone can feel a sense of community. I do not have the answer to loneliness, perhaps that answer lies within the JSTOR database- but I hope that we can look at our loneliness and see the small glints of joy that have been imparted on our lives, and hopefully within our despairs of loneliness we understand how much we need each other. Even if needing someone might look like wanting someone to grade your Spanish homework online.

“Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.”
Douglas Coupland



Andy Ward

25 writer, comedian. wants to be in Ina Garten’s inner circle