Monday, June 22, 2009

Facebook Rehab 5: The Group Therapy App

Facebook Rehab 5: The Group Therapy App
By “Samantha Greene”

Clearly, I hit a bump in the road last night, and it bounced me right off the wagon and flat on my ass. It was more than just a slip - I was glued to Facebook until the wee hours of the night. Besides posting umpteen Status Updates, I took the following quizzes: What is Your NPR Personality? The Kitchen Gadget Quiz, What Kind of Mask Do You Wear?, When Will You Die? (but I didn’t look at the answer because I got freaked out,) and three different IQ tests (one of which I kept taking until I scored well, and then I posted those results to my Wall.) I added six Pieces of Flair and voted in a dozen Polls (the toilet paper one was included in that count, naturally.) I downloaded the Fortune Cookie app. I played Texas Hold Em Poker and created a virtual restaurant in Restaurant City. I sent seven Growing Gifts and a bunch of Friend Hugs. I also had my Profile Photo turned into a sketch with the Sketch Me app. In short, the integrity of the dam was compromised, and a tsunami washed me out deep into Facebook waters.

I woke up this morning with the imprints of the keyboard on my cheek, a throbbing headache and reeking of shame. It took my eyes twenty minutes just to regain the ability to focus long distance. I had come so far in my FB detox, and now I am back on square one. I’m so disappointed! I had finally gotten to the point where I wasn’t thinking in Status Updates and referring to myself in the third person. Now I’m right back in the thick of it, stuck in the Status Update groove. Samantha Greene feels day-after regrets. Samantha Greene sometimes sort of craves a good éclair. Samantha Green wants to marry Tina Fey just to get on “30 Rock.” Samantha Greene cries “Hot summer streets.
And the pavements are burning.
 I sit around trying to smile, but the air is so heavy and dry.”

After an emergency email to my Cyber Addictive Personality Syndrome therapist, I finally took her advice to Fan the CAPS group therapy circle. I went to my first meeting an hour ago. It actually was quite eye opening. And I thought I was messed up - you should see these people! There were five of us communicating there on the page, but I could sense there were dozens just watching and hundreds more who needed to be there.

This one woman, who called herself “Tristan’s Ex,” had developed localized arthritis from hitting the refresh button so often on her ex-boyfriend Tristan’s Profile Page. Now she has to use a specially designed wand held between her teeth in order to type. Turns out, Tristan dumped her last month, and she can’t figure out why. They seemed to have it so good. (I saw the photos from their house party in March. It looked like a lot of fun. They were a cute couple.) Then all of the sudden, he stopped posting to her Wall. The truth of the matter didn’t hit her until he de-Friended her. That’s how she found out they were broken up! That’s cold, man. Next thing you know, Tristan’s Ex wasn’t invited to parties anymore, but she would see pictures of Tristan and his new girlfriend (who looked a lot like Mike Tyson according to her, and I gotta say I agree) on their mutual Friends’ pages. Last week, Tristan’s Ex ran into a Friend at the mall, who informed her that Tristan had changed his Relationship Status to “Engaged.” Poor, poor Tristan’s Ex!

And there was another guy called Lonely Boy. He is a serial Friend collector. He wouldn’t tell us his current Friend count, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the four digits, at least. Lonely Boy posted, “I need to think I have friends! Even if I am a voyeur and only sit and watch all the fun other people are having, living vicariously. When I’m on Facebook, I feel popular.” Oh, Lonely Boy, how many Friends will it take to make you feel worthwhile?

Shop ‘n Cry was this chick who was in total denial about her problem. Even though there wasn’t an application she didn’t use, she still rationalized being fired from her job for being online too much. “Everybody does it!” she posted defensively. “Everybody spends seven hours a day on FB. They pretend to be doing work when I walk by, but I can tell they’ve been posting stuff to their Walls.” Shop ‘n Cry was a big finger pointer, “I consider my FB usage to be appropriate, but you guys definitely have a problem.” I think she needs to hit rock bottom before she can start healing.

Random Dude was there too, but he was so ambiguous that at first I had a hard time figuring him out. This guy couldn’t even post regular sentences anymore. Every single thing he wrote was either some arbitrary collection of words, or else song lyrics or quotes from movies and TV shows. It was hard to get a read on Random Dude when he posted stuff like, “Trident gum,” but I sense it was a cry for help. As were his other contributions to our therapy session, like “I'm going to take a pillowcase and fill it full of bars of soap and beat the shit out of you!” and “Oh, you may stray, but you'll always return to your dark master... The cocoa bean! And only the purest syrup nectar can satisfy you. If you could, you'd guzzle it by the gallon... Ovaltine!? Hershey!? Nestle Quick!?" But nothing was more heartbreaking than Random Dude’s final post of the session, “Chiquitita, tell me the truth. I’m a shoulder you can cry on. Your best friend, I’m the one you must rely on. You were always sure of yourself. Now I see you’ve broken a feather. I hope we can patch it up together.” I feel like Random Dude and I really made a connection today. I’m definitely going to Friend him if he requests it. Together, we took one step closer to our recovery. I think he’s going to make it. I really do.

I guess what I really got out of the group therapy session today was that the only way to break my addiction to Facebook is to completely cut the cord. Yes, it’s terrifying. Yes, I’m not sure if I have the gumption it takes to return to a world devoid of online social connections. Surely, the face-to-face interactions will see paler and shallower in contrast to my previously vivid, Technicolor lifestyle. But I don’t want to end up in my parent’s basement, using a pencil in my mouth to hunt and peck on a keyboard. Random Dude is right that I’ve “broken a feather,” my soul feather that is.

Therefore, I have posted the following final message on my Facebook page:
“Samantha Greene has decided to go off Facebook. Thanks for all the joy and the tears, the pleasure and the pain, the good times and the bad. You will always be my Friends 4ever. I love you guys! My Page will be disabled officially in three days. See you in the real world.”

How will Sam fare in the real world?
Stay tuned for the final installment of Facebook Rehab!

To read more essays by Pam Victor, check out “My Nephew is a Poodle (and Other Random Thoughts)” at

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