A black, black day.
Before that, my life was puttering along fairly smoothly. I had enough work, the house looked all right as long as your standards were flexible, and I read a fair number of books. I was happy.
Oh, I had my share of troubles—limited finances, doomed relationships, personal loss, a frustrating inability to smoke marijuana because it gives me panic attacks. But on balance I was doing all right, thanks to the wonderful people in my life who have stuck with me through thick and thin, because when they try to run I hunt them down and smoke ’em out. Field note: they stop screaming in your face when fatigue sets in, especially if you threaten their children.
Everything was just fine until that chilly winter day when I signed up on Facebook.
Today, pale and wan from lack of exposure to sunlight, obese from lack of movement, tissues wasted away except for remarkably muscular fingers, eyes evolved to lemur-like proportions, brain that on an MRI looks like a familiar blue toolbar, I am a mere shell of the woman I used to be and, frankly desperate. If this is life, I don’t want it.
My email records show that my descent into the agonies of addiction began when I got an invitation from a friend. (It later turned out that he had no idea that his profile was stepping out at night wearing a catsuit and a balaclava and inviting everyone in his address book.) I signed up but more or less ignored Facebook—oh, that innocent time!—until June 2007, when a trickle of friends and messages suddenly turned into a flood.
There were messages. There were photographs. There were minute-by-minute updates. There was Scrabble, and Scramble, and Lexulous. There was Honesty Box. There was voyeurism. Shallow intimacies—with people one didn’t necessarily even like—sprang up like weeds. Real-world ceased because everyone was staying home, logging onto Facebook to make sure they stayed in touch. What warm-blooded mammal could resist all this?
But then it became a problem. I thought I could control it; but soon enough, it had robbed me of my basic human rights, like the freedom to move beyond internet access, the freedom to not play my Scramble turn immediately just because someone nudged me electronically, the freedom to break for meals and, sometimes, a shower. It’s the nature of addiction.
I’m tired of meeting actual flesh-and-blood people and looking beside their face to find the button that will take me to their wall. More and more, these days, in the lonely darkness of 3am, wracked by repetitive stress injury and carpal tunnel syndrome and the unbearable agony of a) not knowing what my friends are doing at that exact moment, and b) knowing what perfect strangers look like and do and talk about, I contemplate taking what our newspapers call “the extreme step”.
I even put it up on my Facebook status a couple of times, the fact that I am sick of it all and sometimes—yes, it’s true—have thoughts of deleting my profile. But, instead of fearing the worst, people thought it was funny. This is how tragedies happen: people cry out for help, and other people just ‘like’ it.
I yearn for that sweet release. It would be for the best. But then I think of all the people I’d leave behind, reeling in shock and disbelief, clutching at each other’s pixels and trying to understand, to make sense of it all; and I bow my head, and I steel myself, and I carry on for their sake.
That’s what it means to be responsible.