My descent into the madness of addiction was slow at first, almost unnoticeable. It picked up pace as I added and accepted more friends over the course of a couple of months. Some of them came from my past: grade school, high school and college, as well as a variety of jobs. Some of them found me after chance encounters at social gatherings, or bumping into me in a public place like my children’s day care, the library, or the park. The truth was, I hardly knew most of my Facebook friends anymore, and I started to wonder if the vast majority might actually be assholes.
Facebook had started out as a fun way to socialize for a few minutes here and there throughout my mostly isolated days as a stay-at-home mom living in a new, relatively small, town. I had never been much of a “joiner”, so though I had attended meetings at the local moms’ meet-ups now and again, nothing had stuck. Eventually, my online social time grew from and innocent 10 to 15 minutes a day of “liking” heartfelt posts and amusing photos from my nearest and dearest—and posting a few of my own—to hours of scouring politically or religiously charged comments and passive-aggressive memes, as well as anxiously watching break-ups and divorces take place online. I tried to tear myself away, but instead I began spending my days crafting arguments and comebacks to every post that opposed my beliefs. I searched the Internet looking for anything that would highlight my wit and show my opponents the authority I carried with my every opinion. My quest for the perfect online retort even began to invade my offline hours: I started to view every stranger that crossed my path as a potential online adversary. “What kind of crazy belief system does that guy have?” I’d wonder, and then I would cleverly craft my prose—I’d work on it even as I slept—imagining how I would change his way of thinking. The laundry went unfolded, diapers piled up, and my children turned feral.
That dark period (Was it one month? Two months? Five months?) ended abruptly one day after an argument that pushed me too far. Was it about gay marriage, the safety of vaccinations, or women breastfeeding in public? I can’t even remember. I do know that in a rage my hand shot out and clicked “unfriend” before I even realized it was happening. I gasped. Crap! I hadn’t gotten the last word in! What if I had said that one last, magical thing? And then I noticed the silence as well as the relief from squelching that annoying online voice along with its duck-faced avatar. That bit of relief sparked something in me. I started to crave that peace of mind on a larger scale, and I realized I appreciated being ignorant about the opinions of those who were only acquaintances. So one afternoon, as I peered into my children’s eyes, which pleaded for some sign of the mother they once knew and loved, I made a decision. That night after I tucked their freshly cleaned and diapered little bodies into bed, I made a list of the adventures we would go on the next day, then I logged onto my profile, clicked on my friend list, and began: unfriend, unfriend, unfriend, unfriend…
This piece is the result of a creative exercise that was assigned at work. The assignment was to write a story about a life changing moment, an embarrassing moment, or one of our greatest achievements in just three paragraphs.