Day 21 Welcome to the Hotel California

I’ve never had a tattoo. It’s not that I don’t like them, I do, a lot. I even moved in with a bloke once because he had the same gun tattoo as Paul Simenon, but I couldn’t get one myself, I don’t like the permanence of them. I don’t like to stay in one place too long, where I live now is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since being a kid. I don’t have a regular tipple, I don’t have a ‘type’ with blokes, I don’t want to make a choice and then have to stick to it. That’s why I chose option 6 when leaving Facebook, the one that said “this is just temporary, I’ll be back”. What I didn’t realise is that Facebook is not temporary at all, it’s permanent whether you like it or not. Facebook is Hotel California, you can check out any time you like; but you can never leave.

Why do I say that? The answer lies somewhere between a solipsist’s nightmare and a stalker’s wet dream. Once you have gone onto Facebook, once you have glimpsed the world through Zuckerberg’s eyes, the image is indelibly burnt onto your retinas. To me, it’s just like it was when I heard Never Mind the Bollocks for the first time or discovered the internet; my view of the world changed forever. You cannot undo what is done. Joining Facebook means entering an environment where you see people in a different way. Not because they put up the best photos of themselves (which they do) or try and be clever and funny (which they do) but because it’s the one place where they will always be. To the point where the “liveness” of their presence is even defined by a green dot or a blue crescent. So, you join a social network where the existence of another is defined not by the normal intermittent social contact that comes with physical relationships, where people come and go, here they are tattooed onto Facebook’s arm. This brave new world once seen is impossible to forget, and that affects how you define yourself and your relationship to others. So I left Facebook, but I didn’t, because Facebook didn’t leave me.

And here is a weary word of caution: woe betide you having a Facebook romance, because when it goes wrong, which it almost certainly will, you will not be able to content yourself with the illusion that they’ve ceased to exist or better still are dead. Not only will their profile be there (providing you didn’t really fuck it up and get blocked) reminding you of their continued existence, but, worse still, they’ll update their profile and you will have as many reminders as you can stand that life goes on…without you. The last scene of Zuckerberg in The Social Network, constantly refreshing the page of his unrequited love, was a telling, if mawkish, reminder of what we are all getting ourselves into.


  • That’s a great post. I especially liked the last part of this line:
    “Not because they put up the best photos of themselves (which they do) or try and be clever and funny (which they do) but because it’s the one place where they will always be.” There’s been lots said about the permanence of things said, done and posted in FB and how people might feel about them in later life or how they might affect career/relationship prospects (in these things it’s always assumed that 1. FB users are all young and 2. they have prospects). Personally I find the Yahoo birthday reminder I get emailed every year for my deceased dad incredibly moving and now quite important to the many different ways I remember, celebrate and mourn him. And that’s something that’ll go on as long as I do.

  • Juliet Bowbrick

    Paul, thank you for that. I think that I am only just beginning to understand how I really feel about Facebook and the time I spent on there. And I mean it when I say that I can’t erase from my mind that other version of life. Just wonder if I can ever go back.

  • The Prophet Muhammad

    Fuck all this shit. Why even be tempted by Facebook when you can go play with this:

    (& the really scary part? My 5 y.o. daughter is the person who first showed me it)

  • Really enjoy the new look. I enjoyed this article. Bless you for a fine article.

  • Exactly where is the facebook like button ?

  • So true. I wish it were the 80s. Break-ups must have been so much easier back when the only place you ever might get a glimpse of your ex was at the roller disco.

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