by JESSICA RIONERO
If I do not exist on the internet. Do I exist at all? It was straightforward and took a second really. It hurt a bit. Then it was over. I deleted my Facebook. Something that seems trivial. But the truth is. I used it every day. I would wake up and check it on my phone. Then on my computer. Then when I was bored in between conversation. I wanted to see people I knew all the time. I wanted to feel connected. And I was. Very connected.
However, I felt I had fewer real relationships since I dedicated most of my time to the internet. I would go out less and stay in more. Sarcasm went through the door. Tones were misconstrued. I wanted real contact.
So I ripped the band-aid off and was ready to face this world without my virtual social security number. Besides, Sophia Loren did not have a Facebook, why should I?
I went on a job interview later that week. I was a sure fit. College graduate from a private school. Technical skills? Sure I got them! People person? I've worked customer service at a retail chain in Long Island. Bring it on.
"Everything looks great except there is one caveat. We did a background check and couldn't find you on Facebook." said my interviewer.
"Come again?" I was surprised.
"Well, do you have an alias you go by on the internet?" the interviewer reasoned.
"No, none at all. I actually just deleted mine…Wanted to keep this professional." Oh. Did that sound bad?
"Well this is a media company and a lot of marketing plans include Facebook advertising. We need someone savvy in this area. If you don't fit that requirement, I don't see a reason to continue this interview."
At first, this seemed absurd, but it was entirely reasonable. Maybe a media advertising job wasn't right for me after all.
I had a date that night that a friend set up with a guy named Mark. It would have made exceptional small talk. The first half of the date he shared pictures of a recent vacation he was just on. A self proclaimed avid traveler. I never quite traveled, so we ran out of topics of conversation while waiting for drinks.
"I have to admit," he says. My eyes perked up. I cleared my throat. Nervous, I said, "Yes?"
"I usually google my dates prior to the first one."
I smile, almost relieved. " What was an exception this time? Are you trying a new thing?"
"Oh no. I still googled you. Nothing came up though. Not even..."
"A Facebook? Yes, I deleted mine."
He continued to quote things from his page and things he's seen on others' walls. He acted like a guy making out with a frozen margarita in front of an alcoholic. He felt guilty every time he mentioned it but just couldn't stop himself.
Soon after that, he just checked out. It's like if I'm barren and can't have kids what's the point of having a second date? What's the point if we couldn't write in a relationship somewhere?
Late that night we still went through the motions. We headed to a bar downtown of his choice. I mean at least, we could still get drunk and hook up, right? The doorman stopped us at the door. I took out my ID. He had a scanner and swiped mine through. He took out an iPad and typed in my name. "You didn't respond online to the invite."
Mark was embarrassed. "I was going to invite you, but you said you deleted your account."
The bouncer shook his head. "Not tonight kid." Mark kissed me on the cheek and said he had friends waiting inside. He continued in, and I was left by myself. I decided to walk home. Reflecting if I made the right decision. I saw a friend of mine named Bridget, she looked kind of different. I hadn't seen her in years actually. We went to high school together, and both moved to New York after school. But never kept in touch. Definitely were Facebook friends. Liked a few statuses. Commented on some pictures. Clicked a few maybe attendings.
I waved to her. She barely noticed me. She squinted her eyes to deal with this déjà vu. We barely had anything to talk about. She was explaining this campaign she had online for her acting troupe. She needed a certain amount of likes on a video; she didn't get enough. I said I would have liked it if I had seen it...but I didn't. I told her that, I still use e-mail but, she was disinterested. We left with old, "Well, I'll see you when I see you... I guess."
Maybe I wasn't a certain type of person. I didn't want to be savvy in something that was intangible. I went home back to the suburbs. I figured I'd surprise my parents. I walked from the train station to my childhood home. Both cars were in the driveway. It was around dinner time. Perfect. I knocked on the door.
My mom answered, surprised. Maybe worried there wasn't enough food and I said it was fine, that I wasn't actually hungry. I walked in, and my dad and brother were already at the table. In their hands were phones logged into Facebook. They were unable to give me proper hugs and kisses. My brother was scrolling his news feed and my dad was posting something sweet on my mom's wall about their anniversary. They asked a me a few questions about my life. There wasn't terribly much to say. My mother sat down and offered me some of her greens. I reminded her that I was okay and just took in the awkward silence with my blood relatives.
I sighed and wanted to give them their space. I walked away and decided to kill time in our living room. I entered to see just my dog Simon. He was sitting in the middle of the room in front of the television set. He only glanced at me for a second and resumed his focus on the images. I ignored the television and headed for the window that looked over the street I grew up on.
My street looked lovely. It wasn't a Norman Rockwell painting, but it was enough for me. There were a few kids playing outside. I stepped into the cold. I didn't even tell my family. Didn't want to disrupt them. I wasn't nervous. Why wouldn't they want to play with me? I went up to one girl. She had to be around five or six and actually reminded me of myself at that age. I asked if I could play with her and her friends. She seemed confused. Like no one has ever asked her to do this before.
The other kids noticed and asked, "Who are you talking to?"
She didn't know what to say, "Amey you're weird," they proclaimed as they walked away and left me alone with her. I felt guilty. I heard them talk about going home to play video games.
"Hey Amey, are you going to go with them and play video games?"
She shook her head. I said she didn't need those guys. She took to me right away and even invited me over for a tea party. I looked back at my house for a moment. Through the window, I saw my living room. With the flicker of the screen, I didn't feel like I was missing out back home and they probably felt the same about me.
We went to her backyard and had a grand old time. Her parents even made us cookies. They were so happy and polite to me. They didn't think I was real at all though. They were just joyous that Amey found an imaginary friend to occupy her time with. At first, I wanted to protest but then I figured why? We had a real interaction, who cared if no one else would see it? We were living it. Maybe I did find my true calling. Well, until she gets a MacBook Pro.
"Use Your Ghost" - The Lake and the Lion (mp3)
"All You Ever Wanted" - The Lake and the Lion (mp3)