April 7, 2017
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I hate Facebook. Facebook is ruining my life. Not because of something Facebook did, or because of something someone posted on the site, but because I am an addict. You wonder why I don’t post to my blog on a regular basis? Facebook addiction. Why haven’t I seen more of Chiang Mai and the surrounding area? Facebook addiction. Sometimes I’m not as prepared for my teaching classes as I really should be. Why? Facebook addiction. Social media is a cool and wonderful thing, if kept in its place. But to so many of us with addictive personalities, it can be a cruel trap.
I have never used drugs, save the three times I tried marijuana (last year) and didn’t really care for its effects. I don’t drink much, except socially. There was a period of time when I was viewing a fair amount of pornography, but I don’t really need it or crave it. (Told you I was going to be brutally honest, didn’t I?) So you wouldn’t think that I would be considered to have an addictive personality, would you?
My relationship with social media began rather oddly, I think. I am never one to be current in the field of personal technology, either software, apps, or devices. I was one of the last people on earth to purchase a CD player back in the early 1990s. And then it took a long time after DVDs came out for me to come around to them. I actually remember being a little pissed at the video store for crowding out the VHS movies to make room for the newer, smaller, easier video format. But once I embraced those thin, round, shiny objects, then the rest of the world moved on to digital and streaming. I can’t keep up. My very first experience with email was a DOS-based system that was used internally at a large electronics and appliance distributor in the Midwest. I worked at the headquarters, and was given the opportunity to create an email account. I didn’t really see the need for it at first, but when I discovered that I could have almost real-time text-based conversations with other employees who were in remote locations, I was hooked. I loved having goofy conversations with complete strangers, and it made me look forward to going to work. Later, when I was at home, I discovered that I could play card games online with others who joined at random. And when I found the little tiny text box at the bottom of the Yahoo! Euchre page, where I could tell my partner, “GJP!”(Great Job, Partner!) or ask about where they were from, I was enthralled. After a while, one of my card-playing partners told me about chatrooms where they would hang out online and talk to people from around the world.
Now, I had heard of chatrooms. One of my coworkers came very close to losing his job because he kept coming in late for work. He was staying up all night talking to people that he didn’t even know in internet chatrooms. He told me about it, and I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard. Why on earth would anyone spend hours sitting at the computer having conversations with people they couldn’t even see? (You see, I had forgotten about my fun at the previous job with the internal email) So, I dismissed him as an idiot. But after the invitation from the card game partner, I decided to check it out. My first foray was into a chatroom labeled “The Hot Tub”. Why did I choose that particular “room”? Maybe it just sounded more exciting than “General News”, “Computer Hackers 1”, or “Politics and Business” rooms. I mean, in real life, wouldn’t you rather go to a hot tub?
Once in the room, I noticed two things: everyone went by a pseudonym, and nobody said anything to me. They were involved in several different conversations at once, and at first it was hard to keep up. It wasn’t until a comment was made to which I had something to add that I put my fingers to keys and pressed “enter.” And someone responded to my comment. And I was drawn into the conversation. I spent probably about an hour chatting away about nonsense and such, then turned it off and went to bed. Later, I found other rooms. “Trivia” was one of my favorites for a bit. Eventually, “Current Events 1” became my go-to chatroom. I had some great discussions in there, and it felt like the conversations were somewhat intellectual, though we did have episodes of silliness.
After becoming a regular in Current Events 1, or CE1, as we called it for short, I started to recognize and came to be familiar with several of the other entities in the room. I was able to get to know their personalities, recognize their fonts (everyone got to choose their own favorite font style, color, and size), and even pick up on their turns of phrase. We sometimes chatted about where we were from, our life experiences, and our hopes for the future. It started to be a real place to me, and I looked forward to joining the conversation on a daily basis.
I mentioned that everyone had a pseudonym. I did as well. I tried to be something that sounded cool, so I believe that my name was “Cerberus”, after the three-headed, snake-tailed dog who guarded the Hades side of the banks of the River Styx. I had been a huge fan of Greek mythology. Later on, I changed my name, as a joke, but then I found that I really liked it, and it was popular with the rest of the room’s “inhabitants”. At the time, some enterprising web-cam operators had figured out how to create fake personalities that would enter the chatrooms with sexy names and start talking suggestively. They would then post a link to a web-cam site where “you can come see what I’m doing now!” I suppose that it got attention, and that it probably drew a certain part of the audience into clicking one the link so they could see what “Lick_My_Cherry19” was up to, but for most of us, they constituted a very annoying interruption to our discussions. We called them bots, because they, and other random advertising “personalities” were actually just robotic programs. So, in a moment of frivolity, I changed my ID to “porn_bot18”, and re-entered the room and began to make hilarious, suggestive comments. At first, the denizens of the room reacted as expected, they were hostile. But when I started to engage them in conversation, they were surprised, and then it became very funny. Eventually, they figured out it was me, and we all had a good laugh. But the name stuck. I was “porn_bot18” for the rest of my CE1 days. Not much later, my chat friends nicknamed me “Porny”, and that’s who I became.
I did from time to time adopt other ID’s for the room. Being that we discussed current events (sometimes, anyway), I found it fun to come into the room dressed up in “costume” for something that had happened in the news. Usually, my ID was sick and twisted. For example, after the tragic crash of the AirFrance Concorde when one of its tires blew out and caught fire on takeoff, I thought it was too good not to tie it to the other unfolding issue surrounding rubber at the time, namely the Firestone/Ford Explorer debacle. (Look them up if you don’t know, I already have the finger cramps) Hence, I chose “Concorde_Was_Wearing_Firestones” for the week. Yes, it raised eyebrows, which is what I wanted. Yes, some people complained that I was making light of tragedy, which I most certainly was. Yes, it offended some, but those weren’t my favorite people anyway. My friends found it very funny. So I continued to look for ways to garner the attention. Subsequently, I chose names such as “Jethro’s_Turn_to_Drive_the_Sub” (referencing the deadly USS Greenville/Ehime Maru collision), and one that I’m not particularly proud of, but I went with anyway-“Bathing_the_Kids_in_Texas” (an admittedly heartless spoof on Andrea Yates’ postpartum depression-fueled murder of her five children). There were many others, but I cannot recall them at the moment. Back then, I thought I’d never forget. Should have kept the list. For Easter, many of the chatroom regulars would choose a special name, like “Chocolate_Bunny” or “Painted_Eggs” or some nonsense. I chose to gain attention by offending. My Easter season ID was “Giving_Up_Altar_Boys_for_Lent”. Probably that was one of the most controversial names I chose. Some of my friends who were Catholic were not as amused as I had hoped.
I began to spend more and more time in CE1. I started to choose time with my internet friends over time with my family. It was truly an addiction. Whenever I would enter the chatroom, there would be a chorus of “PORNY!!!” or “Pornbot!” It was eerily similar to when the inhabitants of the fictional television bar “Cheers” would yell, “NORM!!” whenever George Wendt’s iconic character would walk through the doors. I felt important. I felt wanted. I felt a part of something. I felt home.
I have much more to say about my chatroom and social media addiction, but I will have to save it for later posts. I hope all of you have a great day/evening/weekend.