I’d love to know how many lives Facebook has ruined since 2004.
With over a billion current users, what percentage has managed to do something so stupid, so utterly brainless they have completely screwed up everything they hold dear? Could it be a million? One tenth of one percent is not too bad is it? Given Facebook is the greatest thing since Big League Chew bubble gum, after all; who cares if a paltry sum of non-hackers (as in screw ups, not computer espionage experts) screw the pooch and end up in a royal mess they have no chance of extricating themselves from? It’s progress, and we all know nothing stops progress. What’s so fascinating about the animal called social media in general and the particular species of Facebook is the myriad number of ways a person can come to ruin while never leaving the friendly confines of his or her living room.
My generation — Gen Xers — have one particular pitfall I’ve seen so many friends succumb to — adultery. Yep, even though our enlightened and elevated society frowns on any notion of infringement on personal freedoms, married people — at least ONE spouse anyway — tend to be somewhat backward thinking in the area of personal sexual freedom. Still, Facebook is proving a tremendous way to wreck a marriage. I say “my generation” because younger folk have a different expectation of privacy and decorum than we old farts.
The song always starts with the same melody. A late thirty / early fortysomething signs up for a Facebook account just “to see who’s out there.” If she’s like me, maybe she’s looking for a meager handful of friends from days gone by. Maybe he just wants to “reconnect” with some of the guys on the team that went to State back in ’89. Sure enough, he finds some classmates from the college days and even his very best friend from high school sends him a friend request or a poke. Just like that, 25 years fall away and she’s reminiscing with some of the old gang about their exploits in the days before cell phones when lying to our parents was so much simpler.
It’s all innocent fun. Just a bunch of girls catching up on old times before stretch marks and sagging boobs; a bunch of guys reliving the glory days when all the mass around their waists was up in their chests and they had more hair on their heads than their backs. Then it happens. He logs on one evening and a new friend request is waiting for him. He clicks on the notice, a picture pops up, and he flushes hot . . . it’s HER! His mind goes back to summer days at the pool, dances after football games, and . . . well, increasingly less awkward fumbling sex wherever they could get mostly horizontal.
At that point, a pang twinges in his head. He’s been married for years. He’s got three kids, a mortgage, and an IRA. Even as he laughs off his foolish worries, he knows it would be better to let this sleeping dog lie . . . but he doesn’t. He accepts the request and she happens to be online! Three hours flash by just like when they were two teenagers talking on the new portable phone for half the night. His wife — the mother of his children, the one who stood beside him when he lost his job in the disaster of ’08 — has already gone to sleep. She’s got a full day of shuttling kids, cleaning, shopping, and cooking to do. He stretches out beside her wondering why his conscience itches so, but he pushes the thought aside as he drifts off to a dream of yesterday.
Three towns over, she’s having a bedtime glass of wine. It felt so good talking to him tonight. She’d been wondering whatever happened to him. They used to have such great times together. Sure was easier back then. Lately, the rat race was dragging her down. Little Johnny brought home a frowny face on his Monday Memo . . . AGAIN, Suzy had just stomped off to bed with the dreaded preteen attitude . . . AGAIN! The van was in the shop . . . AGAIN! Then, tonight at supper her husband says the company is downsizing . . . AGAIN! She poured herself one last glass of Chardonnay and let her mind drift back to when she was captain of the cheer squad. That warm feeling had to be the wine.
For the longest time, everything stays innocent and above board. They two old flames chat on Facebook and exchange pictures of their families. Then he gives her his cell number and they text every now and then . . . nothing salacious. After all, they are both married. They both have obligations. Still, what can it hurt to talk to someone who was present during the first episode of the stories they both tell? The texting gets a little more flirtatious, then a LOT more flirtatious. Finally, she asks him if he’d like to meet for coffee at this little place she knows in the town between theirs.
At that point he thinks, “What the Hell!” He’s got comp time accumulated and with all the stress he’s been under, it’d be nice to see a friendly face from back when. So they meet up. The conversation is a little awkward at first because they both have the feeling this PROBABLY isn’t the best idea in the world. He’s feeling especially guilty because his men’s group just completed a series on guarding our marriages. Still, her smile hadn’t changed at all in the intervening years and he noticed she hadn’t completely let herself go. As for her, she can see the rascal she had loved so long ago peeking out from the businessman.
And so it goes . . .
Do I need to finish the sordid tale? Do we need to know how many lunch dates — of course they weren’t DATES — it took before they started wondering if the connection they felt might extend a little further? Do you want the name of the motel that began taking the place of the coffee shop? How long did it take before his precious wife noticed something different? Women know. Her husband starts out clueless . . . he’s got too much going to notice — at first. Y’all know how this ends. It’s just like an episode of Gilmore Girls only these aren’t actors and no one gets to live happily ever after in this story.
When the shit hits the fan — and it ALWAYS does — both “partners” get to deal with lots of tears and yelling. It’s a fine, fantastic mess they’ve gotten themselves in. The funniest thing, however, is what both of them tell a friend or a pastor or maybe a divorce lawyer . . . “I never meant for it to go this far! I never meant for it to get so out of hand!”
But it did, didn’t it? A simple friend request and human nature takes it from there, over and over again as Gen-Xers fall victim to Facebook fascination that leads to frustration that leads to flirtation that leads to fornication . . . that leads to an end no one ordered, but everyone gets to pay for.
Love y’all. Keep those feet clean.