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.