Every night is the same. I get into bed and think about reading a book. Then I look across at my phone and think, ‘But it’s been at least four minutes since I checked the internet. What if everything has changed?’ So I reach over and pick it up. It’s still warm from when I held it four minutes ago in the living room. I press my thumb on the Facebook icon. Here goes. Here comes the fix.
But there’s nothing. No change. Everything has remained the same.
I put the phone down. And then look dreamily at the books by my bedside. I stretch across to choose one but find that I’ve accidentally picked my phone up again. Oh dear. How did that happen? Ah, well. Maybe I’ll just check the internet. It’s been a good two minutes since I last looked. Maybe everything has changed…
That’s my nightly ritual. Some people read books, some people talk to their partners about what colour to decorate the lounge. I check Facebook. (My elderly neighbour, in the flat above, spends her bedtime trying to fart from entirely new, ever-deeper chasms of her being: ‘Ooh,’ I imagine her saying, as the force passes through her like a duck caught in a propeller, ‘that one dropped from my lungs!’)
What I’m waiting for, or what I want, from Facebook I don’t know. I’ve been on it for around eight years [yikes] and it’s mostly brought consternation. It has many positive sides, of course. It’s a neat, informal way of keeping up with friends; it’s a handy promotional tool for doomed writers and artists like myself; it’s good for seeing what your friends are up to (I mean that in a non-spy way – although it can be good for that, too); and it’s a great way of daily testing your ability to come up with approximately five alternative ways of wishing people a Happy Birthday. Those are the good things. Alas, there are plenty of bad to balance it out. As an eternal pessimist, it’s these I tend to focus on.
I’ve seen so many inspirational Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley quotes on there that I’m starting to wonder how the pair of them ever managed to get any work done. They must have felt under immense pressure to say something poignant every time they opened their mouths:
‘Do you want a cup of tea, Bob?’
‘Man want many transitory possession. It’s eternity that is de true goal.’
‘Is that a yes, mate?’
Worse than the dubious Bob and Marilyn quotes, though, is discovering the dark sides to people I once thought goodly. Over the years, my Facebook timeline has unmasked a score of illiterate fascists. (The fact that extremism and a slovenliness towards the English language often accompany one another should tell its own story.) I’ve had to unfollow some real nasty bastards due to their views on subjects ranging from bloody foreigners taking our jobs to bloody foreigners claiming benefits because they’re not taking our jobs. It’s been hard to keep up sometimes.