30 Harrowing Days in Rehab for Facebook Addiction
For some time, I've wanted to write about Facebook addiction. Something that synthesized the growing psychological literature on this phenomenon and presented it in an amusing fashion. Unfortunately, after a fair amount of reading on the subject, I could only find one sentiment worthy of repeating here:
Facebook makes you feel like you’re doing something while doing nothing and, yet, in its own way, makes you too tired thereafter to actually do something. It’s a lot like filling out a moveon.org petition.
The problem is, the person who wrote that was me. And it just seems, I don’t know, unseemly to quote yourself...
So consumed by writer’s block and boredom, I decided to kill time by taking this Facebook Addiction quiz. To my great surprise, I learned that I was 56 percent addicted to Facebook! I know! Me. An addict. Sure, 56 was still a better score than my recent crystal meth urinalysis, but I knew from all the media’s reporting that Facebook addiction was a far more serious condition. So I did what any responsible columnist would do: I checked myself into a 30 day rehab program for addicts like me. The following is a true account of my harrowing adventure.
DAY ONEThe 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.
DAY 15By 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.
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DAY 30There have been many proud moments in my life. Calling Jessica Simpson a fat and untalented. Ironically pretending to strike a blow for Judaism against the Black Eyed Peas. And, of course, murdering Daniel O’Brien. But Day 30 of my treatment, when I was declared clean and sober, would have to be like nine or 10 on the list. Definitely top 20. In 30 days, I’d learned that Facebook was one huge masturbatory time suck. Yes, of course, I already knew that at the beginning of ’09 as evidenced by that quote at the start of the column, but now I learned it again. And it was taught to me by someone who was paid to say it, so it's that much more true. I also learned techniques for dealing with the cravings. For instance, now when I want to play scrabble at three in the morning, instead of going online, I wake my wife and take out the board game. And if I want to play scrabble with someone I don’t know, I ask her to wear that wig and talk in a German accent. By the way, it turns out that that chick Natalie was my wife. I knew she looked kind of familiar. I just hadn't seen a lot of her in the last two years, what with the HBN and social media-ing we were both engaging in. I approached the center of the circle and held up my sobriety medal with pride. David was quick to offer support.
DAVID Gladstone what the hell are you doing? Sit down.
GLADSTONE I just wanted to thank you all for believing in me. This medal means a lot.
DAVID First of all, we don't give medals. And secondly, if we did, you wouldn't get one. Just this morning, I caught you trying to update your status on a calculator.
GLADSTONE Well, if I didn't graduate, how did I get this medal?
DAVID You won it at some stupid reading and you never take it off because you're a huge narcissistic loser.
GLADSTONE Good one, David. But if I'm such a huge narcissistic loser than why would someone as cool as I think I'm so great? Yeah, you think on that. So I left the treatment with Natalie/wife and medal in hand, proud of conquering my addiction. Understandably, the group was saddened by my loss. Pedro called out.
PEDRO Gladstone! Don't go. How will we live without being part of your life?
GLADSTONE Oh, don't worry friends. I'll keep you posted on... (wink) Facebook. The group stared back blankly, and I recovered gracefully from my faux pas.
GLADSTONE Um, I mean, not Facebook. Twitter. No. Um, a letter? Yeah, like with paper and stamps and stuff. That still exists, right? Cool. I'll drop you line. And with that, I closed the chapter on my days of addiction and started my new life.
Help Gladstone battle his addiction by visiting his revamped website and/or subscribe to his site's feed. You can also follow him on Twitter and, of course, stalk him on Facebook. UPDATE -- Facebook friends almost maxed out. Why not join the Gladstone/HBN fan page and stay abreast of Gladstone/HBN events?