The new heroin

Chris Carmona

“I never thought it would happen to me.” How many times have we heard those words uttered?

We’ve all seen the image of the recovering addict, scratching his arms with eyes tired and hungry and body pale, paralyzed as if he were a shell of his former self. My pity for these people has recently transformed into empathy.

I came home from abroad last year, and everyone was doing it. At first, I laid off. I said to myself, “Chris, you don’t need that stuff in your life. It’ll only distract you from all those goals you don’t have.” But like an itch gone ignored, it grew and grew, until it took so much of my attention that I collapsed and ultimately, yielded to it.

I joined the Facebook. And since that moment, since that first update on my profile, my life has forever changed. No immediate changes in my lifestyle became apparent. I requested a couple of friends, mentioned a few obscure bands and some provocateur films, jotted down a pretentious book or six and wrote some clever paradoxical component to describe myself (brilliant, modest).

And then it began.

Guy Fromidelscool has requested you as a friend.

Who? Guy? Oh, Guy. I wonder how Guy is doing. I could probably learn about his character through his Facebook profile. It won’t mention if he’s taking Zoloft or if he stays awake at night fearing death, but I can at least figure out if he listens to Death Crap for Crappie.

And for a brief moment, it really did seem like I was once again connected with all of these ghosts. One by one, my webmail inbox became overpopulated with e-mails from the Facebook community. Did I see this as a sign of ill fate? Of course not. Like all soon-to-be addicts, I not only welcomed Kristen Hooumaidoutwithonce to write on my wall, but I yearned to see a new request, a wall listing, any reason to retype my password and find out what new additions to my community lay before me.

And the options seemed endless. Just when I finished checking every recently updated profile, scrutinizing their favorite books (worst combination ever: “The DaVinci Code” and “Catcher in the Rye”), or favorite movies (we get it, you like Vince Vaughn films), and after I’ve finished writing my ‘to hate’ list of pro-choice “conservatives” (fiscally right and socially left = Libertarian, not Republican), I scrolled farther down and saw the category “Groups,” a whole new distraction from reality.

And oh how I could see through the thinly veiled masks that people attempted to create through their Facebook profiles. It was like diving, eyes first, into someone’s soul. Those people who posted misleadingly attractive pictures of themselves, these are the girls who flip through “Cosmo” and glance at the mirror, fighting back tears while they sprinkle water onto their lettuce. Those guys who post pictures of themselves funneling beers or chugging a handle of water (their throats closed), these are the men who somehow make being stupid look cool on this campus. I, too, am at fault. I put ironical interests and an abundance of books, and not even Rembrandt could better paint the depths of my intellectual bullying tendencies. And finally, there are the minimalists. The “I’ll join the Facebook, but I won’t put any self-defining information” kind of people who only grace us with their e-mail address and their cold, dark birthdays. These are the ones who we have to worry about most. They’re so concerned with self image that they feign apathy and distance themselves, not unlike Simon and Garfunkel’s timeless “I Am a Rock.” You are an island, indeed.

And like all good dealers, the Facebook knew how to keep me coming back. I had started to exercise and venture out of my bedroom, hiding my laptop from myself like some sort of figurative methadone, only allowing myself to sign onto the Facebook twice, nay, once a day! And then, like a freight train, like Mrs. Wallace with Vince’s stash, I took one unexpected bump and found myself lying on my back, my eyes rolling back and staring at my hollow skull. The Facebook introduced photo albums.

I fell into a complete relapse. I nailed a tapestry over my window, locked my door and sat in front of my computer until my eyes burned, my back ached with scoliosis and my forearms throbbed like those of a twelve-year-old boy. I started to completely disregard my e-mail account and instead went directly to the source. If you requested me as a friend at 9:03 a.m. for some ungodly reason, I somehow accepted or rejected you by 9:02 a.m. I became delusional. I remember cradling myself on a bare mattress, sleep deprived and thinner than size zero, convinced that it was Allan Ray who had requested me as a friend.

Then came the intervention. I had padlocked my door and smashed my digital clock, completely secluding myself from reality. After repeated attempts and pleas from family and friends, my roommate kicked in the door and found me creating my 72nd group. It was a group about Facebook goups. My life became a two-sided mirror, and my sub-reality had its own means of entertainment. I was completely lost.

My roommate pried the laptop from my hands and slammed it shut, causing me to flinch, blink and reenter the real world. He ripped off the tapestry, and light shined onto my face, forcing me to squint, even though it was 4 p.m. I looked around my room and saw my mother, handkerchief over her face while attempting to stifle cries, my father, disgraced, avoiding my eyes, and my sisters, their expressions stuck between indifference and embarrassment. With this startling kick in the face, I realized that I was an addict.

The road to recovery has been hard and long, but I can once again call myself a human being. Whenever I feel the tendency to check the Facebook before my e-mail, I think of that fateful day on Feb. 4, 2005. How do I remember the exact date that I became a member of the Facebook might you ask? Because every time I sign onto my account, I’m reminded.

The Facebook isn’t my friend, it’s the George Jung of websites. It meshes itself into a hip existence while destroying millions of young, vulnerable lives. Not since middle school AIM have I seen such genocide. My name is Chris, and I am a recovering Facebook addict.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go update my profile.