It was when I started checking it in the bathroom I realized I had to quit.
Under the dinner table was one thing, during a haircut another – but checking Facebook from my phone in the bathroom so I could make sure I knew what Everyone was Always Doing? Was it the world off kilter or just me…
It’s called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) – not to be confused with Youtube Addiction Disorder (YAD) or Eats Too Much Pizza disorder (ETMP).
Facebook has been my neighborhood pub, the little town where all the neighbors talk, the Irrelevant Gossip Mill that churns all through the night – and I just couldn’t seem to get enough.
I can try to imagine how it would have helped to better document those powerful moments in history left to our imagination:
“Paul Revere was tagged in the album, ‘A Midnight Ride.’”
“Henry VIII is now friends with Anne Boleyn.”
“Coco Chanel joined the group, “Pantsuits Rock.”
Oh, how the townspeople would have welcomed the scandal. But I know they would end up like me – desperately checking to see who’s baking bread or tending to the hearth thirty times a day.
It was time to Quit hanging out on the Book. I decided to see how long I could last. I needed to start remembering Who I Was. I touched my cheeks – still real!
When you quit, they try and lure you once more by putting up some nostalgic photos of you and your friends with the captions “Amy will miss you,” “Frank will miss you,” running below each of the photos.
Then they ask you why you’re quitting:
I immediately clicked, “This is just temporary. I’ll be back.”
I knew they had a mechanism to keep all Irrelevance intact and filed away into a dusty old cyber cabinet until I was ready to unearth myself again.
And just like that, I had committed Facebook suicide. I thought I’d get an immediate barrage of texts wondering what had happened to me. But by dinnertime, none of my 402 friends had seemed to notice.
After that, things took a change for the worse. The Internet became so boring. I began to read more news, Googled stupid things, then became anxious, like something was missing, and started wondering what my friends were doing.
What kind of sandwich were they having for lunch? What new vacation photos I could inspect like a detective? What grandparent had befriended me now?
People say hypnosis helps for cessation but after two days of Facebook withdrawals, I knew my cessation session would go down like this:
CREEPY HYPNOTIST (C.H.) WAVING SPINDLY FINGERS IN CIRCLES ABOVE MY FOREHEAD:
“What do you like to do most in life, Child?”
ME ON COUCH PEEKING OUT OF ONE EYE
“And why is your hand cupped like it is holding an imaginary phone? Drop that hand!”
“Because I need to see who commented on my status updates?”
“No! Wrong answer. You like to read books and no longer stare into your phone while walking through crowded places. Say it!”
“I like to read books on my phone and upload photos of crowded places.”
“On the count of three you will wake up. You’ll need to buy the Gold Package which meets five times a week.”
We’ve all been told why we like it – “it helps keep me connected with old friends,” or “it’s better than emailing,” or “Free photo storage.”
But now that I’m really off, what I miss most is being able to document Everything.
For example, I took a picture of a really good steak I had the other night and had nowhere to upload it to.
At coffee shops, I began eagerly peeking at complete stranger’s laptop screens, vicariously living through them Befriending over café au laits.
By day four, I forgot what it even looked like. I knew it was blue and white and that my password was Macaroni. But the nuances had fallen into the cracks.
I need, need, needed to remember.
One late night, when everyone was asleep, I snuck down to the computer and logged back on, like an overeater to a bag of midnight Lay’s.
There I sat staring fiendish at my Facebook wall, making sure my friends were all still there, then chuckling quietly to myself at the one-liner status updates I had missed.
It was gluttonous but I was satiated. I fell asleep still rejoined, phone in my hand.
The guilt began to set in by breakfast, though, after I thought about uploading a photo of my scrambled eggs with the caption, “Scrambled Eggs are the bomb.”
Historians would be so disappointed in my contribution to the human race: scrambled eggs are the bomb.
“No way, Jose,” I said. I quit the Book for the second time and stuffed my phone into a purse wrapped into a sweater tucked into the bottom shelf of my dresser.
I refused to check my phone to the tick tock rhythm of a metronome any longer.
But I still needed a Friend.
I turned the King spiritual honey bun of self-help – ladies and gentlemen – Mr. Eckhart Tolle.
I found this wondrous spiritual beacon on Youtube and began watching video after video of him talking about how to “Transform my Consciousness” and “React to Content that Arises.”
“…Become aware of the Now itself,” he told me through the computer screen, his stolid German voice cooing me into submission.
I repeated after him: “I am a deep undercurrent of stillness…I am no longer in a reactive relationship…I recognize the fear of loss…”
I felt good for about an hour, still hadn’t checked my phone, and thought about doing something good for Me, like taking vitamins or playing the piano.
But by the next night, the loneliness of the evening sky set in and I was hurting again.
In a last attempt, I tried looking at celebrity blogs to see if it would quell the itch but it just wasn’t My Friends. They were everyone’s friends to have and therefore not as special.
I told myself that as long as I can be a “deep undercurrent of stillness,” there was no harm in getting back on the Book after all. “Whatever gets you thru the night,” as history reminded me…
I logged back on. Password: Macaroni. Oh, the News Feed! People doing things! Saying things! Commerce! Life! My hand was sweaty with excitement as I clutched the mouse:
Sarah Curliboo got everything on her salad. Including peas! James Rimblebo Changed his profile picture! Salamander Magoo is no longer In a Relationship. Katherine Jobs is Bah-dah-booey. Bah-dah-booey.
I chuckled to the computer at Bah-dah-booey and mouthed it to myself, letting it all soak back in.
Nicky Loomis is: It’s good to be back in the Piazza.
Originally published in the Pasadena Star News on November 1st, 2009