Content warning: topics include suicide and depression.
People don’t often believe me when I say that metal music saved my life. Some combination of derision and eye-rolling tend to accompany either empty platitudes of inherent “toughness” or “resiliency”. It’s futile to try and explain surviving emotional adversity to someone who’s either never experienced it or reckoned with it.
Let’s try to fix that, shall we? Let’s set the proverbial stage and see if we can get there together.
You’re a prepubescent male in a time where school hasn’t caught-up to the lived experiences of neurodiverse individuals and youth suffering from a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. You’re exceptionally unpopular with your “peers” in your age- and grade-cohort. Teachers call you “difficult” and “disruptive” both to your face and to your parents. Parents tend to leave you to your own devices — they’re too busy trying to make a living and process their own traumatic experiences to help you get a handle on yours. You get sucked into video games because you’ve been cast out from everything else. …
To say that walled gardens are inescapable is simultaneously truthful and disingenuous — you can escape the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) if you have a little ingenuity, a little imagination, and some time on your hands.
Part 1: The “Why”
If you’re reading this, it’s very likely you have at least some idea as to what someone means when they use the phrases “metadata”, “Cambridge Analytica”, “Five Eyes”, and “Mass Surveillance”. The associations, connotations, related politics, and nuances should be fairly evident for everyone else, but for those that need a refresher:
The last decade-plus of news relating to leaks, breaches, and misuse of personal data by companies included under the FAANG banner (and many adjacent ones) are well-documented and easily understood. Their impacts are far-reaching and the depth of that same impact is still being ascertained (if not actively exploited by hostile independent and nation-state actors). Data breaches, disclosures of personally-identifiable information (PII) and Patient Health Information (PHI), monetization of “anonymized” personal data (such as search histories, browsing habits, purchase histories, etc.) …
I can’t tell you when it started; only that it’s always been a part of my life. Implicit and explicit reminders that capital-m Manliness has always been, and shall forever be, the purview of Manly Men who refuse to engage in that “touchy-feely bullshit”, as some of my former friends used to see it.
Don’t get too close. Don’t touch. Don’t hug. Don’t be weak (or at least don’t let your weakness be seen in public). Don’t engage feelings. Don’t be vulnerable. So much proscription — and for what?
Two decades of isolation, rejection, emotional pain, and self-directed hatred apparently. Something that even a decade-plus of therapy couldn’t resolve with any real level of decisiveness. Two decades spent in isolation from other men. Two decades spent denying, burying, burning-down, and rejecting the full spectrum of my own lived experience and the fullness of the life that was trying to be seen and valued. Two decades spent in isolation, rejection, and patient rage waiting for the opportunity to “escape” and start living a glossier, happier life exemplified and objectified on screens, in books, and in magazines. Two decades waiting for depression, post-traumatic stress, and despair to go on permanent holiday and for joy and peace to come rushing in to fill the void (or at least an absence of pain). …