Why I Am Breaking Up With Facebook (Again). (Post #420)

My writing is a mixture of quasi-autobiography and fiction. I pull from my life but then run it through my imagination. Some people go to sports events, bars, sex shows or movies to have fun. I have fun by combining my real life with my imagination and then blending it all together through writing.

Several years ago I wrote a mini-story called Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. It was ten percent autobiography, the rest was fiction. This is why I distinctively remember having a lot of fun writing the story in my small writing studio in Davis, California. I sent the story out to several publications but no one was interested. I posted the story on my blog and no one read it. Confessions Of A Facebook Addict, like most online stories, hung there suspended and unread in digital space. After a few weeks I forgot all about it.

But then I began receiving emails. The New York Times, The Huntington Post, Money Magazine and many other on and offline publications I had never heard of wanted to interview me about my Facebook addiction. I thought about whether or not I should tell the truth and let them know I am not really addicted to Facebook and it was just a story I made up. But I have always been interested in the intersection between life and art. I love it when art gets away with imitating life. Doesn’t happen often that art can be victorious over the forces of banality and conformity that are continually trying to destroy it. But sometimes art sneaks in and no one knows it’s happening. Blending art with the banality of real life is something I never had the opportunity to do outside of my blog and other writings. This was my moment, my one shot to make my small contribution. So I played the part and pretended to be the character that I wrote about in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict. I was interviewed and confessed to being a Facebook addict and before I knew it the fictional character was being made real in many on and offline publications such as The Huntington Post. This just goes to show that A LOT of what you read online is not true.

I did leave Facebook not long after. I broke up with Facebook because I already had enough anxiety in my own life and felt like Facebook was adding an extra level of anxiety that I really did not need. Like most people, my relationship with social media is complicated and not having this added complication present in a life that already felt complicated, was really nice. Facebook keeps a person in touch with people who in a world without Facebook would remain in the past. I think it is healthy for most people you have known to remain apart of your past. The past heals. We know each other for a period of time and then we don’t. This is natural. But holding on to a past that should be long gone creates all kinds of unnecessary difficulties. It is something that is not supposed to be happening and we suffer the consequences for holding on to something that really should no longer be there.

As it is with a lot of complicated relationships that have a blend of love/hate feelings, after a three year absence I returned to Facebook not really knowing why. It was good to be back because Facebook is a realm in which time stands still. In a world where time ravages everyone I know and knew, it was nice to find a warm place seemingly immune from the ravages of time. Sure the interface and various Facebook accessories changed, but more or less everyone was still doing the same thing; posting about fun times, feelings, people they love, opinions, songs and bands they love, things they have accomplished, political and spiritual perspectives and on and on. As a man who is not entirely comfortable with the rapid passing of time, Facebook provided me with a kind of SAFE SPACE in which to hide from storm. A space where whether people are aware of it or not, everyone is taking collective shelter from the ravages of time. This is what creates that underlying sense of community on Facebook. It is a community of people all connecting up together and pushing back against the forces of entropy.

Like most communities that provide people with a safe space, it is easy to get too involved, too quick. Of course I involved myself too much, too quick. I got in over my head as I often tend to do with most things. I shared and said too much. Without Facebook, a person is much more alone in the outside world. Fewer people listen to things you have to say. You get to be less yourself. At times being alone in the outside world can feel isolating. You might even question if you really matter anymore especially when you know that to be relevant in this tech driven world, you must join the gathering going on inside. I already have a tendency to share too much in my day to day life. Give me a microphone and I become that quiet guy who has so much more to say than you ever thought possible. Like most people, I keep a lot in, but when given any opportunity to express myself, it will be a gushing forth.

This time around on Facebook, I deleted more status updates than I shared. The status updates I did share, I felt apprehensive about. Did I say too much? Maybe I should not have said that? This was my common thought process every time I posted something. I did not want to post banal status updates about say my new puppy or the plate of food I was eating but I was also aware that Facebook is a pretty conservative place where people are overly concerned about what others might think of them. Most people on Facebook just elect to play it safe. Personally, I find this boring but maybe that is my downfall. Like Icarus, despite your warnings, if you give me wings to fly I will definitely get too close to the sun. And besides, do most of my “friends” on Facebook really need to know this stuff about me? Maybe they need for me to be just as a part of their past as I need them to be apart of mine. This is not a bad thing.

So in a sense, maybe Karma has bit me in the ass. The character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict is a neurotic man overly concerned with all the different nuances involved in the Facebook world. He is continually wondering about what others think of him, angry about the vast degree of passive aggressive behaviors and judgement of others that is an epidemic on Facebook. He is annoyed with his own narcissism, human folly and frustrated that he allows Facebook to turn him into what he feels like he has become. In a lesser way, maybe this is what is starting to happen to me now.

Some people, like my wife, can be very responsible with their Facebook usage. They check in every few weeks or so and that is it. Some people have no need to share at all. They play the role of the voyeuristic troll going on Facebook to see what certain people are up to. But then there are those of us who go on Facebook several times a day. When given an opportunity for self-expression, we indulge. As an artist, writer or any creative person this is a great asset. The artist or writer who has a lot of self-restraint when it comes to self-expression makes mostly boring art. All surface no depth. But Facebook is not the place for most kinds of self-indulgent, self-expression and if someone does not take the mike away from me I will keep expressing myself when maybe what I really need to do is shut up and sit down. This is why I am breaking up with Facebook (again). It feels like the right thing to do before karma really sneaks up on me and turns me into that character in Confessions Of A Facebook Addict.

It is always a beneficial human ability to know when it is the right time to jump ship and then to be brave enough to actually jump. Without this ability, we just live our lives stuck on the edge.

I’m jumping (again).

My Failed Twitter Experiment

images I am deleting my Twitter account today. No more. The key to living a good life is knowing when enough is enough. With Twitter- I have already exceeded my enough is enough point. It is time to come down out of the trees and stop with all the tweeting.

I gave Twitter my best shot. When I started tweeting over a year ago I told myself that I would not allow Twitter to become another fixation like Facebook was. Like someone who quits drinking alcohol and takes up marijuana instead, I thought that Twitter would be a less addictive addition to my life after quitting Facebook. I was wrong. At first I only tweeted once or twice a day, but what captured the majority of my attention was that I could actually read the live time thoughts of various musicians, actors, writers, comics and artists that I admired. I would get excited every time I logged onto Twitter because in some strange way I felt like I was communicating with these minor and major celebrities whom I had always wanted to get to know. I felt like I was apart of their life in some strange way. This was my first mistake. I will come back to this later in my narrative.

From the beginning I knew that I was good at Tweeting. I felt like my tweets had substance, style, depth, originality and a brazen honesty that was like nothing else on Twitter. The name of my Twitter account was The Confessionist and in my bio I explained that I was using Twitter to engage in a radical transparency art experiment. I was not going to hold back. It was my intention to give an honest and uncensored portrayal of the various machinations that go on in my inner life. I did feel like I was over exposing myself, but this slight discomfort was a minor price to pay for my art.

After the first six months on Twitter, without any significant efforts to gain followers, I was proud and satisfied with the fact that I had achieved 98 followers. In my twenties, when I was an unpublished and unrecognized writer (which, to some degree I still am) I always used to say that if I had just one reader that would make all my efforts worth it. So I was grateful to have 98 readers. Well kind of grateful. Ok, well maybe I wanted more. A lot more. Maybe I got greedy.

I could not help but notice that some of the people who I followed had hundreds of thousands of followers. People like Marc Maron, Damien Echols, Raymond Pettibon, Yoko Ono and the lead singer from that band The Flaming Lips all had more followers than I could wrap my head around. Their tweets were no better than mine, they were less prolific tweeters than I, hardly as honest but they managed to have more followers than I have blood cells. I realize that they are all public persons, which exposes them to a wider audience and I am more of a suburban hermit- but still I began to feel like having 98 followers was hardly anything to feel good about. My accomplishment of achieving 98 followers almost felt like a failure in comparison to what these other tweeters had attained. They were like those birds in the trees who have hundreds of birds singing a long with them while I was a bird on a leafless branch with a few birdies looking at me wearily as I tweeted my tune.

The one thing that I read again and again while trying to educate myself about how to get more followers was that a tweeter needs to have patience. Successful tweeting was all about perseverance. Like a long uphill climb, you got to keep going even though you think that you can’t. So I stuck with it despite the fact that the number of my followers had started to dwindle down to 89. I tried not to take the lessening number of followers too personally and I carried on in the dark. Little did I know that a trend had begun.

I started tweeting more. Some days I was the loudest bird on the branch, generating one profound tweet after the next. I was convinced that one day my tweets would be seen for the genius that they were. They would be collected in a book and finally I would get the recognition I deserved. I accepted that for the time being I was a kind of underground, indie tweeter telling it like it was, while very few people had the intelligence or the understanding to grasp what I was saying. Such is the case with most fringe artists. I could live with this. I would tweet things like:

The only thing wrong with people’s mental health is that they do not spend enough time in nature


 The only problem with watering in the front yard is that I am exposed to the neighbors


 The thing about Twitter is no one misses you when you’re gone.



It boggles my mind that I would rather stare into an iPhone screen than look up and watch the sky.



I wonder if Thom Yorke does his own dishes?



Ok, so as I look over my tweets now I realize that maybe they were not an expression of genius. But they were good enough. Honest fragmented thoughts spelled out nicely on the digital page. I would write one tweet after the next and rather than gaining followers, I noticed the strangest thing happening. Like an airplane slowly falling out of the sky, I was losing followers. At the rate of a few a day! Before I knew it, I was down to 51 followers and I had no idea what I was doing or saying to precipitate this loss. I tried not to think about it.



I was like a man who was gradually drowning in a lake filled with Twitter. I tried desperately to grab onto whatever I could. In a tired effort to get my number of followers back up to a non-humiliating number, I started following random people whose profiles presented them as someone who might have something interesting to say. Some days I would follow hundreds of random people and then spend an hour or so the next day unfollowing them. My hope was that they would follow me and not notice that I had unfollowed them. I know, a manipulative strategy but I was desperate. Every time I looked at my dwindling number of followers I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt like I was failing and that my failure was being publicly announced to the world on my Twitter page right beneath the word FOLLOWERS.



Then my wife informed me that the minor and major celebrities whom I followed, those lucky people who had hundreds of thousands of followers and whose tweets I enjoyed reading because they gave me a feeling of knowing them personally, were being paid per tweet. “Paid per tweet?” “Really?” I was shocked. “You mean they are not Twitter obsessed tweeters like myself but instead are tweeting so often because they are paid per tweet?” In the words of Marc Maron, “What the fuck?” Somehow this seemed unfair. It felt like I had been the unknowing victim of a manipulative magic trick.



Twitter pays these people per tweet so that all the rest of us unpaid tweeters feel like we are on the same level as the celebrities we admire. Or even worse it keeps us tweeting because we want to be more like them! Twitter presents all of its fellow tweeters as equals in the Twitter universe. But its bullshit! Tweeters are not created equally and those whose celebrity status affords them the ability to have more followers than the average person are getting paid to create the impression that they are just like all the rest of us. Like a bird on a branch whose tweeting gets all the other birdies to tweet along! No thanks.



I had no choice but to unfollow all of the minor and major celebrities that I was following, which left me feeling all alone in the Twitterverse.



Gradually the amount of followers that I had dwindled down to 32. 32! For some reason this number seemed to stabilize at 32. I stayed at 32 for months. I have a feeling that these 32 followers are people who have deserted their Twitter accounts. They left their Twitter accounts active but no longer come around anymore. So I have become a lone bird who is tweeting in a tree to the skeletons of birds that once were. Great.



My time on Twitter has awoken me to the harsh realization of my non-celebrity status. I suppose that before Twitter I thought that I had the potential for fame in me and it was only a matter of time before others picked up on this. But now I see that not only am I a non-celebrity but actually I am a non-non-non-celebrity since I lost the majority of my very few followers on Twitter. To think that back in the day when I had 98 followers was the height of my fame, is a rather sobering thought with regards to my artistic and literary accomplishments in this world. Maybe I am not meant to be one of those people who have thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. As hard as I have tried, it seems to just not be my fate in this life. Now I need to come down out of the branches, stop tweeting out loud into a larger world that does not want to hear my song and realize that at the age of 42 my fame extends not much further beyond my wife, my dogs and those darn mosquito’s who seem to be addicted to taking a bite out of me every night when I am asleep. Goodbye Twitter.

28 or 29 and Lost

meeeeeee I am 42 now and I awoke early this morning with an all too familiar feeling. It felt like seeing a person from your past who you hoped you would never see again. The feeling slowly traveled from my toes up into the center of my chest. I could feel it nudging itself right up against my heart. I thought to myself: What the hell is this? Oh that’s what it is. It was that dreadful what am I going to do if? feeling. What am I going to do if I run out of money? What am I going to do if my job does not work out? What am I going to do if I can’t afford to pay back my debts? What am I going to do if I go broke? I’m not sure where this feeling originated, since I feel more financially secure now than I have ever felt in my entire adult life. Maybe it was triggered by a traumatic dream about my youth. Whatever its cause, I remember waking up feeling this way everyday when I was 28 or 29.

I like to live in the moment now. I have no use for walking the dead (except when writing things like this). The only thing I confidently believe in is the practice of not thinking about tomorrow. I trust that tomorrow will take care of itself and I don’t need to worry about it. When I was 28 or 29 I worried about tomorrow ALL THE TIME. I wore all black in order to let others know that I existed in a state of worry. I was continually tormented by an untreatable condition called what am I going to do if:

I don’t amount to anything?

I can’t pay my rent?

I run out of money?

I can’t figure out how to hold down a job?

I am unable to earn a living through writing and painting?

I die young?

I can’t ever get my anxiety under control?

I have a fatal sexually transmitted disease?

I have to depend on my parents for the rest of my life?

I never succeed?

When I was 28 or 29, this was the narrative that was continually looping around in my head: What am I going to do if?, what am I going to do if?, what am I going to do if? I was living in my x-girlfriend’s walk-in closet in the ghetto section of downtown Oakland. I set up a small futon just beneath her hanging dresses, pants and shirts. Every night I fell asleep to the earthy scent of body odor that clung to her clothes. Radiohead had recently released their fifth album, Amnesiac. I listened to the album ALL THE TIME. I listened to it when I went for walks. I listened to it when I drew, painted or wrote. I listened to it when I spent afternoons lounging around on my futon. I listened to it before going out and before going to bed. It was my anthem of despair. It prevented me from bleeding to death. In that album I found a bandage. A group of musicians who were around my age and who understood what I was going through. At least it felt that way. I felt like the only difference between them and myself was that they could afford to buy a house and all I could afford was to rent space in my x-girlfriends walk-in closet.

I drank much too much. I smoked much too much. I was stoned much too much. All of these methods of intoxication interfered with my motivation levels. Rather than spending my days making an effort towards some kind of productivity, I preferred hanging out in and around a coffee shop, reading, smoking and talking with the locals. I was happy in my unhappiness. Content maintaining my own status quo. All that I knew for certain was that I wanted to be nothing like my father. Aside from my appreciation of writers and artists, I presume that the main reason why I wanted to live my life as a writer and artist was because it was as far away as I could get from good old dad.

I tried. I tried terribly hard to make certain compromises with my father’s world of licenses, degrees, work ethics, status, cultural legitimacy and financial drive. I started but was never able to finish:

Medical school

A Masters degree program in English Literature

Ayurveda school

Podiatry school

An architecture apprenticeship

A well-paid position as a stockbroker

(There may be other things I can’t recall at the moment.)

Along with my fathers urging and hostile support, I tried to find a balance between his world and the world I envisioned for myself- but was never able to feel comfortable in this common ground. Even then I knew that life was short and should not be spent doing things for the sake of money and prestige. Growing up I watched my father work hard and earn a lot of money but he was often angry, stressed out and deeply unhappy. I consider myself fortunate to have learned young that hard work, making money and happiness do not often go together. When I was 28 or 29 I didn’t mind so much living in my x-girlfriends walk-in closet. I figured that it was what all great artists and writers did at the beginning of their “career.” I saw it as a kind of initiation.

My grandfather ended up dying just in time (I am forever grateful to him for this). I ended up inheriting his Lincoln Continental Town Car, which was put on the back of a truck and driven from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the ghetto of downtown Oakland. My grandfather was a failed musician and I think he saw me stumbling down a similar path. He took pity on me because he saw a lot of himself in me and as a result left me his car. The problem was that I could not get his smell out of the car and every time I drove around I felt like his ghost. So I did what felt logical to me- I sold the car to a very friendly older gentleman who put $6,000 in the palm of my swollen hands (I had been taking too high of a dosage of Paxil, which caused my body to retain fluid and bloat. As a result my hands, feet and face where often ballooning out). When my parents found out about what I had done, they were furious. It was if I had stolen something very precious from them. I had deceived them by selling my mother’s, father’s car without their consent (meanwhile they were building a mansion and traveling to Europe while I was broke and living in a closet in the ghetto).

I used the $6,000 to move myself up in the world. I was able to move out of the closet and into a legitimate (but small) fifth floor one-bedroom apartment in a better neighborhood of Oakland. I bought myself some new socks, underwear and shoes. I also bought a well preserved 1988 silver Honda Accord. My dead grandfather’s car had given me back some dignity. I began to feel confident enough again to meet women. But I still had no idea about what I was going to do, so I got stoned and made art. I waited and was lonely. I did not know it at the time but I was struggling with generalized anxiety disorder. I was 28 or 29 and lost.

When I got out of bed this morning I went into the front room where I lit a fire in the fireplace. I looked around at my beautiful home and smiled at my two German Shepherds who were looking at me through the large window, which separates my front room from the outside redwood deck. My heaven-sent-wife was still asleep in bed. The house was quiet. I looked out into the backyard where a large, strong, branchy maple tree was shedding its leaves. As I looked around my house I told myself that everything was all right now, that I was perfectly ok, that everything had somehow managed to work itself out. I smiled, felt my heart lighten, got off the couch and went into the kitchen to make myself some tea.

The Twenty-Four Hour Cell Phone Fast


8:40am: I just woke up from a restless nights sleep. I need to check my cell phone and see if there are any texts that are waiting for me. I may need to return a few of them before I began the twenty-four hour cell phone fast.

8:56am: Just finished returning the three texts that were waiting for a reply. Time to begin the fast. Turning my cell phone off now.

9:57am: My wife just informed me that someone was trying to get in touch with me via text so I need to check real fast and make sure it is not an urgent matter. Then I can resume the fast.

10:52am: I have been fasting for almost an hour now but I really need to check my phone quickly and see if anyone needs me. When I checked my texts first thing this morning a friend of mine texted me a question. I should probably respond. I don’t want him to think I am ignoring him. Just real quick, then I will turn off my phone.

After not using my phone for a bit these thoughts came into my mind while sitting on my couch: What if the things that we carry in our hands and on our bodies either strengthen or weaken us? What if carrying around a radiation emitting cellular device, all day/day after day is actually gradually weakening our vital organs, our immunity, our brain functioning, our bones? What if the “experts” in the field, most of whom are funded by the telecommunications industry, are dead wrong about how cellular phones affect our bodies and minds? What if acupuncturists, natural healers and energy workers are correct when they suggested the cellular phones carried around on the body upsets/disrupts the body’s harmonious energy flow, which causes numerous physical and mental health problems?

11:33am: My phone rests besides me. Because it is off, it looks like a non-threatening, lifeless object. When my phone is off I notice that I feel more grounded, less restless. I feel like I have more time to think and be and there is an absence of the chronic impulse to continually “be in touch.”

12:41pm: I had a strong feeling that someone desperately needed to get in touch with me, so I turned on my phone and there were six texts waiting for me. Six texts from six different people! I called my wife quickly (she had been calling me) and returned a few texts. The moment I returned the texts, I received responses and I had to respond to the responses. Several textual conversations then ensued. I think that the downpour has ended and it is safe to now turn off my phone.

1:34pm: I am sitting down for lunch in a quiet sandwich place down the street from my office. My phone sits on the table besides me. I am not even sure why the hell I need to have it out. The urge to turn it on and check my email and surf around on the internet while I eat my lunch is strong, really strong. I need to just sit here, eat my sandwich and be present (non-distracted).

2:43pm: I need to turn on my phone. This fast is ridiculous. Not practical. I mean what if my wife is trying to get in touch with me?

2:48pm: (sigh) I turned on my phone again and there were four texts awaiting a response from me! Does it ever stop? I responded to the texts and now I need to wait for their response so they don’t think I am rude by not acknowledging their response. This fast is not going well but I do notice that when my phone is off I feel better, calmer, less distracted, more at peace.

3:13pm: Ok, ok………I’m turning it off.

4:24pm: I notice that I have been sitting here reading for the past forty minutes without once feeling like I need to distract myself with my phone. Wow! This is a first.

5:27pm: Just awoke from a brief nap. I fell asleep while reading. When I woke up I noticed my wife’s phone on the table besides me. It was on, so I reached over, grabbed it and checked a few things on-line real quick (New York Times, Daily Beast and a couple of blogs I like to read). After about five or ten minutes I felt guilty, so I put the phone down and got up.

5:56pm: On a regular day of texting I notice that the tip of my right thumb (which I use for texting) is tender and soar as if it had been touching something radioactive. Today I notice that my thumb is not bothering me so much.

9:02pm: I need to check my phone, I need to check my phone, I need to check my phone, I should really check my phone, this fast is ridiculous, just real fast I  will check my phone, real fast, just to see if anyone is trying to get in touch with me, real fast, then I will turn it off and not check it for the rest of the evening.

3:32am: I wonder if anyone one is trying to get in touch with me? Should I check? I wonder what is going on in the world? Should I check The New York Times? Twitter? Maybe I should check real fast.

8:17am: Usually the first thing that I do in the morning is check  my phone to see if I have any emails or texts. I am going to resist the urge this morning. I slept well last night.

8:42am: I notice that when I am always checking my phone, it is because I feel this pressing need/urge to be “in touch” and feel like I am not “missing out” on communications with others. It really is a subtle form of madness. Low level and chronic madness. As a result of not using my cell phone as much, I realize just how fragmented and less private my life has become. I have become more generally distracted and unable to focus for long periods of time (unless of course I am on my cell phone). I’m keeping my phone off for the rest of the fast.

8:46am: Ok, I just need to check real quick.

8:48am: Seven unread texts but I am not going to respond just yet. I will wait until the end of the fast. Turning off my phone and putting it away. Out of sight.

8:52am: One more hour.

9:33am: Where the hell did I put my phone?

Confessions Of A Facebook Addict

My name is Randall and I am a Facebook addict. This is why today I will be deleting my Facebook page (and my Twitter account). After long consultations with my therapist it has been decided that I should cut back on as many unnecessary distractions in my life as possible so that I can make more time for the things I really need to do get done. If I did not have a tendency towards compulsive behavior maybe I could continue on with social networking sites but because I am easy prey to the temptations of social networking it is best that I stay away. For me having a Facebook account is what I imagine having a toothache or a subtle yet lingering back pain would be like for an ordinary person. There is this chronic throbbing feeling someplace in my body that is always pulling me towards my computer to check my Facebook page and it is this throbbing that I want to go away.

Six years ago I was a luddite. I wanted to have as little to do with technology as possible. I think I knew then the potential threat that technology posed towards my love of reading, writing, painting and my peace of mind. Someplace deep down in my psyche I was able to know that if I got caught up in the storm I would get drenched.  The end cost would be my free time and my passions for reading, writing and painting would have to take a back seat to my need to be on-line. So I was smart to stay away but like most temptations in which everyone else around you is partaking in- it was only a matter of time before I gave in.

I consider myself fortunate to have avoided the storm of My Space. I stayed out of its way and watched the My Space storm drench everyone one else with its downpour while I was proud to avoid getting wet. But then came the gift of a Mac PowerBook G4 for Hanukkah a few years back when Facebook was becoming a popular on-line destination. I promised myself that I would stay away from social networking sites and use my new laptop with an Aikido like discipline. My wife was having a blast re-connecting with lost friends and connecting with current friends on Facebook while I read my books alone in my darkened room. I scoffed at her willingness to turn all of her personal relationships into digital ones but she would often tell me to “not knock it until I tried it,” so I took that as a challenge and one day decided to sign up.

I was getting bored just using my new laptop for googling, email and blogging. I knew that my PowerBook G4 had enough power in it to take me into multiple virtual worlds at once and change my experience of communicating and living on earth into something less complicated- but I instead was choosing to not tap into my laptops full potential. I admit that I had some semblance of guilt about this and felt bad that the laptop was growing weak because of my inability to really use it for all it was worth. Facebook felt like a good place to begin.

Like any addiction in its initial stage my introduction to Facebook was innocent and fun. I was excited to re-connect with a few old friends and engage with current ones on-line. Facebook was a good way for me to connect with certain friends without having to talk with them on the phone or see them in person. I am already a slightly solitary person who would rather read a book than socialize so there was something initially liberating about Facebook. I could stay in touch without really connecting. I enjoyed reading the various articles and watching videos that my various friends posted and felt like I was creating a positive community of people that I was motivated to be apart of. But like any addiction- my Facebook addiction became an out of control obsession before I even knew what was going on.

Within a month I went from 10 friends to 175 friends. I had never had this many friends in my entire life and there was something about the number 175 that made me feel slightly popular. “I have 175 friends,” would often run through my mind like a mantra or a declaration against loneliness and isolation. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a fan base, an audience and status updates became an important way for me to communicate to others the way in which I experienced the world. My friends were listening to me, reading my status updates and leaving comments- and this feeling of being known or heard or seen filled me with the illusory sense that I was unique, maybe even slightly famous. After less than two months on Facebook I was beginning to feel special.

As a child my parents worked all the time and I spent a lot of time alone. When my parents were home I felt like they were too preoccupied to pay any real attention to me. Deep down I knew I was someone special but to my parents I felt like I was just an ordinary kid. I tried to do everything I could to stand out. I got in trouble at school, ran away several times, started a new wave magazine, was determined to play professional tennis and one day be famous. But for some reason all of my attempts to stand out never really attracted the attention I needed from them. I got punished, or told that I was a dreamer and then they went back into their worlds. I felt abandoned, unseen, unheard and determined to one-day make something of myself in this life- so they would have to see who I really was.

This feeling of isolation that followed me into my adulthood was muted or watered down by my compulsive desire to leave status updates. With every status update that I felt like I was constructing a persona that was not really “I” but was more like the “I” that I wanted to be perceived as being. I kept a notebook on my person at all times where I would write down status update ideas when they came into my mind. Before I went to sleep at night and when I woke up in the morning I would work hard to think up various status updates in my mind. I was leaving three or four status updates a day and checking my Facebook page seven or eight times a day to see if anyone had left a comment. Before I knew it, months had passed without me reading a single book or putting a splotch of paint on a canvas. It was then that I began to have the lingering feeling that I could be addicted to Facebook.

The worst part of my addiction was not the false sense of self that I created from leaving Facebook status updates. Nor was it the loss of privacy or the amount of repetitive times that I spent checking my Facebook homepage everyday. No, the worst part of my Facebook addiction is the most difficult confession. I hope you will forgive me this transgression. You see, I would work hard at constructing various status updates. The updates had become my main preoccupation and my main form of creative expression. The status update blank digital box had become my empty canvas or a blank page upon which I created my art. I felt like I was making myself vulnerable to all of my Facebook friends and the least that I expected in return was a comment or two. Some kind of acknowledgement from my peers. But when I would post a status update and none of my friends would leave a single comment- I felt a sense of rejection so deep that I could feel fire burning behind my eyes. The fire filled my mind with a blistering indignation towards all my facebook friends who had failed to acknowledge my one form of creative expression. I felt unseen and unappreciated and this in turn ruined my whole day. But like every addiction- a quick fix was just around the corner.

My consumption of alcohol increased during this period. I would put out the flames of my indignation with the cold carbonation of beer. After two or three drinks I would return to my Facebook page and not feel so bad anymore. I would leave another ridiculous status update about being drunk and usually receive a comment or thumbs up which caused my indignation to disappear. I would return to business as usual. My wife never noticed that I was checking my Facebook page sometimes twenty times a day to see if anyone had commented on my page and/or to catch up with my friend’s status updates and various posts. Sometimes, I would even take pride in comparing my status updates to my friend’s status updates and take great delight in the superiority of my status updates. Ridiculous, I know- but Facebook was making me into the kind of man who I did not want to be.

A lot of my fifty minutes in therapy has been taken up with discussions about my Facebook addiction. My therapist became concerned about my lack of self-control and was worried that all the time I spent using or thinking about Facebook was distracting me from what I really needed to be thinking about in my life. She found for me a few Facebook anonymous groups in Sacramento, which I promised her I would look into. I was convinced that my Facebook addiction was not as bad as she was making it out to be and I knew that I could stop going to Facebook when I was on-line if I wanted to. But I was wrong- Facebook had me exactly where it wanted me and was not going to let go any time soon.

Like any great form of self expression- my status update creative phase fell victim to a writer’s block. I was only able to leave one or two status updates a day and I knew that these status updates did not have the brilliance and charm of my earlier status updates. So I slowed down on my updates and spent more time consumed by my friend’s status updates and the various superficial cutouts of information and entertainment that they posted on-line. I would pass hours watching videos and reading articles. The first thing I would do in the morning was to check my Facebook page. It was also the last thing I would do before going to bed. My creative impulses were becoming weakend by the amount of digital information I was taking in and when it came time to sit with a book my eyes were so strained that I could not clearly ingest a single word.

Prior to using Facebook I spoke to my friends on the phone or saw them in person. It has been months since I have talked to a friend on the phone. The loneliness that I thought was being nullified by my time spent on Facebook has only increased. Like a cancer it has not gone away but simply changed its form and moved to a different place. Loneliness is one of the greatest symptoms of our new social networking world. Communities like Facebook create a false sense of friendship and belonging but what I think really happens is that the more digitalized our friends become the further away we grow from ourselves and our corporeal world. Communicating becomes reduced to status updates or brief cutouts of personal information. But human beings are complex organisms with multiple layers of self. To really be a friend one needs to spend a lot of time peeling back these layers and getting inside. The more I have used Facebook the more layers I have been able to keep concealed and this has turned the majority of my friendships into nothing more than a superficial status update.

So I am going to stay away. As of today I will delete my Facebook account and get back on track with living in the world of flesh and bones. I will get back to my books, my writing and paint on a few canvases that have collected cobwebs and dust in the corner of my room. I will start keeping a journal again with pen and ink (where I am the only one who can read my personal thoughts) and re-establish a sense of privacy that I feel I surrendered the moment that I joined Facebook. Maybe deleting my Facebook page is a radical step in the wrong direction but for a compulsive person like myself Facebook is a virus that I must wipe out if I want to feel my normal, vibrant self again. I know that it will take a few weeks to re-adapt to life without Facebook but I am prepared, optimistic and excited for this challenge to live a life that is not spent on-line. Who knows, maybe I will pick up the phone and call a few friends.

A Man Out Of Tune.

As a younger man I played the piano more often than I may have wanted. My Grandfather was a violinist for the San Francisco Symphony and he noticed a particular talent in me. Despite his weakness for promiscuous women, he was a committed father and husband who dedicated himself to teaching me “The ways of Beethoven.” As I played he would hummmm along a bit out of tune with the piece I was playing. I would ask him to stop but he would always furiously respond that “the world is not a friendly place! You must learn to play along when things are out of tune!!”

So along went our daily lessons and over time I noticed that he would fall asleep during the middle of our sessions together. He had taken to drinking whiskey and had developed thrombosis in his leg. He no longer took my musical career with as much seriousness as he once did because “I was incapable of playing along in a world that was out of tune.”

I studied music in college and ten years after my grandfather passed away (he was run over by a train) I developed the same obsession for promiscuous women. My first real love was with a bisexual young lady who drank more than a fifth of whiskey a day and collected rare birds. She was often drunk when we went out for dates and passed out by the time I took her home. With my music I had wanted to cure a world from all its imbalances and with my first love, well, I wanted to save her from herself. I wanted to be the knight in shinning armor that would come along and rescue her from the booze that eventually she chose over me.

My heart was broken but I poured my despair into the keys of the piano that I played mercilessly. Unrequited love had caused my soul to separate from myself and turned me toward a punishment that Psychologists refer to as Bulimia. I felt as if I did not deserve the food that I ate and whenever possible I would relieve myself with a pencil or pen down the throat. It was also around that time (my mid-twenties) that I was hired to be the lead pianist for the Oakland Symphony. My career as a maestro of the piano seemed to be budding but my weight and spirit was descending.

It was also around this time that I started to develop GERD (Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disorder). During my performances I would be overcome with a terrible need to burp and release gas. On the piano the microphone is hooked up close to the chest region of the pianist so when loud gas is released or a burp accidentally escapes- it can be heard in the middle of Bach, Brahms, Rachmaninoff or whatever piece I would be performing. This happened often and I remember the day that I saw in the San Fransisco Sunday Chronicle an article entitled “The Pianist and his Intestinal Sonatas.” I was mortified by the fact that the journalist wrote about my inability to refrain from farting during my performance of Brahms No. 1 in D minor or burping during a Beethoven Paino Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major. He also noticed that I was suffering from some horrible wasting disease. The word was out, people started judging me unfairly and I felt completely at a loss to accept myself. I started what I now refer to as the years of self hatred.

Self hate only drove me into a long winter of alcohol abuse. I drank two bottles of red wine a day and developed a serious obsession for eating cheese. Nothing brought me as much satisfaction as sitting alone in my rented room and eating cheese and drinking red wine until I passed out. I especially enjoyed eating warm brie or white cheddar cheese and drinking a bottle of red wine before my performances. But this indulgance also cost me my job, because even though the errors were subtle- I was throwing off the entire symphony because I was “out of tune all time,” the director told me.

In my attempts to create a world that was in tune through my music, I had strangely become out of tune myself. I was 28 years old and addicted to wine and cheese. I had managed to overcome my bulimia but I was afraid of eating food the was not made by my own person. I slept with strange women and started to develop a sexual addiction that lead me into some of the strangest whore houses in Amsterdam, Spain and Carson City Nevada. I was a man whose only purpose had become to forget about the musicality of life and seek out desperate pleasure at whatever cost- so that I could avoid feeling the pain of a world that was out of tune.

At the age of twenty nine I found myself broke and with little prospects for the future. Working in a gourmet shop that sold various kinds of cheeses and wines allowed me the time to take up tennis. I stopped playing after a few months because I found myself always frustrated by my inability to return a lob. I started meditation but could never stop hearing my grandfather voice saying over and over “you have got to learn how to play along with a world that is out of tune!!” The world had become like one big muted tone and I often reminded myself of my grandfather, sound asleep during the middle of a lesson.

The End.