Snippets From SXSW Interactive 2003

SXSW 2000 Interactive Festival

People Whose Lives Have Been Changed by the Web

Sunday, March 9, 10-11am
John Halcyon Styn wasn't always flamboyant. Before he danced on tables and wore pink fur pants, before he traded all that in for yoga and Zen koans, before he decided to just chill out and be himself -- John Styn was shy. We have to take his word for it, of course, but he paints a picture of typical insecurity. Wanted to write but didn't. Wanted to talk but couldn't. That changed when Styn became Halcyon, as he is known online, the tart-tongued Weblogger known for outrageousness such as "An Open Letter to the Women of the World Re: Helping Me Reach My Orgasm." But instead of backlash, he got support. Lots of it. What followed was what Styn terms an "emotional striptease" -- telling more and more about himself, his friends, his life (and the coalescence of those three, his sex life). And it changed him.

As the sole moderator and panelist, Styn told his story in order to solicit audience members to share their own. Although initially too shy to contribute in what might have struck some as a surprise group-therapy session, the audience eventually began to tell their stories -- and yes, some of them were inspirational -- about overcoming social anxiety, finding a community that made them feel less alone, helping them edge out into the real world. "Were it not for the Web," one audience member admitted, "I'd still be hiding in my room." After a while, the Web began to sound like nothing more than an extension of the self-help movement, chat rooms and blogs an emotional halfway house. Things are more complicated than that, of course, as are the real repercussions of living a life in front of a computer screen.

"How many people have met a boyfriend or girlfriend online?" Styn asked.

About 15 hands went up.

"And has anyone been burned?"

About 15 hands went up.

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