YouTube Courtship: The Private Ins and Public Outs of Chris and Nickas
Since the 1980s, gay men have used online identities to seek friendship, sex, and partnership, first through private electronic bulletin board systems, later through for-profit, corporate services such as CompuServe, GEnie, and America Online, and then through the mainstream Internet. In 2005, the public video-sharing website youtube.com expanded the means by which they could construct and disseminate their identities, as well as how they could pair with suitable mates: through full-color, sound-enhanced videos known as “video-logs,” or “vlogs”—a derivation of the terms “web-logs” or “blogs.” Video-logging on YouTube may have begun as the electronic performance of private lives in the public sphere,but video-loggers soon harnessed the medium to form relationships outside cyberspace.The courtship of YouTube users nickasarbata and littleBIGGERchris, both gay male video-loggers (see littleBIGGERchris 2009a and nickasarbata 2009a) who claim in their videos to be in their twenties, embodies this phenomenon, which synthesises performed identity and community participation. Since their “real-life” meeting July 30, 2007 (littleBIGGERchris 2009h), the two began cohabitating in New York City October 8, 2007 (nickasarbata 2009f). When presented against a theoretical backdrop concerning performativity, simulation, tradition, and democracy, and in light of an early Internet survey of LGBT youth, their story may foreshadow the course and character of other such relationships that rely on complex and public mediating mechanisms to legitimize LGBT identities and interactions, especially as increasing numbers of the LGBT population come of age, come out, and come together online.