facebook made me write, chapter one

“I think I just got divorced on Facebook.”

This is what goes through my head as my friend calls to tell me he received a notification that my wife changed her marital status on the popular, social-networking site. Apparently, the notification went out to over 200 of our friends, via the Facebook newsfeed, sandwiched in between a YouTube clip of a dog jumping backwards and a plea to end genocide in Darfur.  I am not yet a member of Facebook so I didn’t get the alert. In fact, I think my words to him previous when mentioning the site were something along the lines of no f***ing way I’m ever gonna join.

“I’m so sorry, man,” my friend says.

“Me too.”

I feel naked, exposed, embarrassed and some form of exhileration; but mostly I just feel like crying. I thank him for his love and hang up the phone. I’m sitting on the porch, but my thoughts drift downstairs, where my wife is camped out in the in-law unit of our house. She migrated there with our comforter, pillow and a few pieces of furniture, giving what is now my bedroom a minimalistic, deserted look. This was after she felt there was no way forward for us, together. Cheap and expensive thoughts compete in my brain and belly. I guess she’s at the point where a positive marital signifier on Facebook might preclude the type of connection she may be seeking. I burn. And because I burn I melt.

I have come to terms with where we are, with the fact that our 10 years together is coming to a close. Ending, despite two perfect children and a house we own, in a pristine land outside San Francisco. Obviously, I have only come to terms with the concept, not the facts. For me it seems easier to defy gravity than let go of our marriage.

Instinctively, I rush to my computer and go to Facebook.com, to see in digital the news I’ve just received in analog. I find Mandy’s profile and try to open it. “Access denied.” Apparently, I need to open an account to get inside her space and read her news. Alright. I bite the bullet and do what I had sworn a blood oath not to do, sign up for Facebook. I go through the drill yet still can’t access her profile. I must send her a request to add me as a friend.

“Oh, man, is this really worth it?”

Probably not, but I do it anyway. In an hour or so a message pops up on my Facebook profile: “Mandy and Chris are now friends.” I have to laugh in spite of myself, but it also breaks my heart. This is the closest she’s allowed me in the last year.

I search through her friends and contacts. I can’t put together who she might have done it for, or if she did it for anyone other than herself. This isn’t helping.

I never find the news item of her digital declaration of independence, but I am here. I have crossed the virtual Mason/Dixon line between being on Facebook and not being on Facebook. It is a cultural dividing line for our modern times, wherein you make your stand and your party politics. To ‘book or not to ‘book? That is the question. Maybe there is something here for me, I think to myself. Besides spying on my wife, that is.

I happen to bump into her the next day, in our kitchen. Predictably, the first thing she does is offer a sweet yet condescending appraisal of my recent Facebook conversion. Deservedly so, I might add. Since she joined, I’ve had a habit of making snide and derisive comments about her digital addiction. For the last year, I have rarely seen her without a laptop or mobile device jacked into “the ‘book.” So, I take it on the chin and shrug off her veiled accusations of stalking.

“90% of your friends are mine too. Am I excluded somehow from participation in this wonderful, digital world?” I ask.

I can sense she now feels as though there’s one less place she has all to her own, where I’m not present or connected. Her mourning is palpable. I am hurt and therefore pissed. Nonetheless, we both manage to escape the kitchen without spilling blood—or mentioning her online divorce notice.

facebook made me write, chapter three

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