The first day got off to a rocky start. I sat in a circle with a counselor and other Facebook addicts. Their sunken black eyes peered out from pale, gaunt faces. Our counselor David, a middle-aged man with a ponytail, led the discussion. In the days to come, I would learn to respect David. He’d seen some dark times way before most of us had had our first social media high. Once a successful businessman in the 90s, David had lost everything. Until eight years ago, he was still turning tricks in public restrooms just to score ten minutes of Internet time on Friendster. But I didn’t know that then. On that first day, he was just some guy busting my chops.
DAVID Hello, everyone. I’d like to introduce a new member of our group.
GLADSTONE Hey, everyone. My name’s Gladstone.
GLADSTONE And nothing. That’s the full name. I just go by Gladstone.
DAVID No, I mean, “I’m Gladstone and I’m ….”
GLADSTONE The creator and star of Hate By Numbers?
DAVID No. No one knows what that is. I mean, “I’m Gladstone and I’m a Facebook addict.”
GLADSTONE Hey, only 56 percent! At that point, an older woman named Natalie chimed in. I could tell that she had been quite attractive in her day. But now, her once full lips had become thin and dry from too many Facebook groups. She’d become the kind of chick who’d join anything.
NATALIE Percentages don’t matter, Gladstone! An addict’s an addict!
GLADSTONE Oh, well, sure you say that. I mean, you’re probably shooting like 90 percent. Tell me. Are you jonesing for a Farmville fix right now?
DAVID Gladstone! That kind of hostility will not be tolerated. And Natalie’s right. An addict’s an addict.
GLADSTONE Fifty-six percent! I’m less addicted than like nine out of 10 of you. I don’t even know why I’m here! Suddenly, Pedro, a middle-aged man with thick plastic-framed glasses and a thin suspicious mustache broke the tension.
PEDRO Excuse me, David. I know this group is about Facebook addiction, but I was wondering. How do you know if you’re addicted to MySpace?
DAVID Simple. Tell me, Pedro. It’s 2010. Do you still have a MySpace account?
DAVID Then you must be addicted.
GLADSTONE He’s right, Pedo. I mean, Pedro.
By Day 15, I was starting to appreciate the meaning of my addiction. Natalie, now almost 30 days sober was starting to regain her looks, and it turned out this “older woman” was actually seven years my junior. In fact, I’m not sure if it was her addiction that aged her prematurely, or if I’d just forgotten what people over 22 look like from all the time I’d spent around Facebook teens. In any event, although it was against group policy, she and I had been having sex in a seldom used broom closet. I’d explore her body, taking my cues from her while she moaned things like “dislike,” “like” and “omg, they need to invent a ‘please don’t stop’ button!” Not to brag, but Natalie was reaching climax at rehab so often, that if the Internet were allowed there, she would have had to ditch Facebook for a more real time Twitter account.
In any event, on Day 15, we explored the origin of my problem:
DAVID Today, I’d like to talk about why we began using Facebook in the first place. Gladstone, why don’t you begin?
GLADSTONE Yeah, it’s stupid. I didn’t even want to. I did it just to promote my website. Like networking.
DAVID So you joined for professional reasons, but then you got hooked on what? The quizzes?
GLADSTONE Uh, no, I’m not a 14-year-old girl.
DAVID The apps like Farmville?
GLADSTONE No. See above.
DAVID Connecting with old friends?
GLADSTONE No. I barely know any of my Facebook friends in real life.
DAVID Then what?
GLADSTONE Well, I guess I got hung up on women telling me how great I was.
DAVID Oh, but Gladstone. It’s the Internet, don’t you realize that eight out of 10 of those women look hideous in real life and/or have a penis? I thought about what David said for a moment. In my heart, I knew it was true. Slowly, I turned and spoke the truest sentence I knew.
GLADSTONE I like those odds.