Tell Me I’m Worth Something

We needed to matter to each other, but the words we typed told us only the worst about ourselves

Michæl Lu†z
Human Parts
Published in
19 min readFeb 21, 2017

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An overhead photo of an Asian woman standing still as blurred people walk by her.
Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

TThe first person I knew online who died was younger than me. He drowned one summer, jumping from a dock, landing in a shallow spot in a lake, getting knocked unconscious, and under he went. I’d dealt with death before, my great-grandmother and a grandfather, and this boy had never been a person of particular interest to me, but when word finally trickled online, I was shocked that he — who I knew only as words on a screen — was gone.

When I say I knew him, I mean I had never met him in person because he lived in Texas. And when I say he had never been a person of particular interest to me, what I mean is we weren’t friends or anything, but we ran in the same circles on a discussion forum for webcomics and pop culture, an incubator for the type of deeply layered ironic meme-mongering that was destined to define social media. On the internet, he was only a vague presence I was aware of, a fellow participant in the endless chatter of people who all seemed to live so far away from me, people who were cooler and smarter, who had it together.

Oh, but this kid, he didn’t have it together. We didn’t interact directly, but I knew he existed in the way that in so-called real life you come to be familiar with people who are not personal acquaintances but are widely discussed or disliked in the general scene. This boy, he was disliked. He’d been on the forum longer than I had, by about four or five years, I think, which meant he started posting when he was pretty young. He was perpetually outgoing: 11 years old and attempting to joke with a bunch of collegiate proto-hipsters, seemingly impervious to their open disdain, their loudly and continually voiced annoyance with him for his low-quality content contributions to the sacred halls of their webcomic discourse.

What I knew about this boy was that I didn’t want to be like him. I didn’t want to be someone who was disliked. I wanted to stay quiet. I didn’t want anyone to know how young I was, how confused and unsmart I was. I, personally, had nothing against him, but he functioned as a kind of antitype: Here’s the person you don’t want to be. It seemed the only part of himself he allowed online was the…

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Michæl Lu†z
Human Parts

he/him ☉ PhD (Shakespeare, early modern drama, [post]humanism, media) ☉ games ☉ horror ☉ MY FATHER'S LONG, LONG LEGS ☉ THE UNCLE WHO WORKS FOR NINTENDO