Growing Up and Getting Deleted (From Facebook)


I was dripping with sweat in a New York City heat wave, trying to balance my laptop on my legs while steadying an oscillating fan gone wild, when I realized my youth was over. I’d known for quite some time that this moment was en route, only I’d assumed it would reach me some place far less “late-night-teen” than sweating in my bedroom with a fan and my computer. But there I was. Another where-did-my-youth-go manifesto, indeed. Kind of. I still cover up my daylight-hours-glossy-eyes with neon blue Ray-Ban knock-offs that cost five dollars, and I still suck at cooking. I’m bad with money and my Weezer (Blue Album, obviously) poster is still thumbtacked onto my bedroom wall at my parents’ house, beside a photograph of Courtney Love that I ripped out of Spin ten years ago and the Roxy alarm clock that still wakes me up when I’m visiting home. As you can understand, I’m not totally an adult. I don’t have a mortgage, but I’m no longer in Stage I or even II of my youth, because so much time has passed between then and now that I care very little for most of the people I grew up with, and I don’t think they really care about me, either. Par exemple: one of my old friends deleted me from Facebook and I got super upset about it.

Everyone has that moment. They’re eating gross oysters or putting on loafers or suddenly calling a couch a “chesterfield.” They’re meeting friends at the Minetta Tavern or whatever the upscale diner with fourteen-dollar mimosas is called where they live. Everyone will inevitably, at some point, pause and recognize that they no longer exist in their shoplifting, joyriding glory days, and that the people with whom they partook in these activities grew up to be assholes or bankers or really nice mothers.

Just as so many trivial/ painful things are revealed in this cesspool era of social networking, Facebook was the reason I found myself staring into my computer screen wondering where my friends went. My boss, the editor of a big music magazine, told me that he needed to hire someone to write a feature about punk bands immediately. I listen exclusively to witch house, so I couldn’t take the job. I thought I’d be a pal and offer it to an old friend of mine who is riding the coattails of his successful girlfriend and blogging about Cults in his boxers all day for free. He really wants to be a punk writer, but instead is toughing it out at a bunch of ten-hits-a-day-including-three-from-his-mom music blogs. I figured he could use the gig, so I tried to reach out to him to set it up. I typed his name into Facebook, but quickly discovered he had deleted me. This friend I’d had since high school with whom I’d smoked weed on my sister’s bedroom floor, with whom I’d watched a Pixies concert in the summertime and with whom I’d been sharing Neutral Milk Hotel records with just months before I moved away, had deleted me from Facebook. All I could do was evil-eye the Add Friend button that never used to be there.

Who gives a fuck, really? People delete each other from Facebook all the time. But this delete was so deliberate. I glanced at his friends list. My sister is still on it. All of our high school friends (and enemies!) are still on it. Girls from grade twelve who he had sex with but definitely didn’t speak to ever again are still on it. And I am not, which doesn’t matter, except that it does, because at some point when you’re cruising through your list of Facebook friends deciding who to discard and who to keep, you must make a decision about whether you care to have certain people in your life at all. Perhaps you haven’t spoken to a particular individual in five years, but you really loved them at one point and want to be able to say happy birthday or look at photographs of their children someday. So you keep them. If you have any interest in any person at all, or any inkling that you might one day have a desire to know what they’re doing, you leave them in your life, albeit hanging by a virtual thread, so that they’re not gone forever. To this guy, I am gone forever. Which is fine. He’s not that great a person anyway. If you Google his name, the third link down will take you to fiction work he had published in a magazine I used to edit. I felt bad that he had graduated from four years of journalism school without a single byline, so I convinced my colleagues to save space for him. You’re welcome, you fuck, and I know you stole my sister’s Beatles pin in grade ten but I didn’t make a big deal out of it because you were trying really hard to be angsty and unique at the time.

The zen thing to do here is say that I didn’t care about being deleted, but the fact that I later took my nonchalance to the Internet should tell you otherwise. If we’re being honest (that is what Thought Catalog is for, right?), I’ll admit that there are people I’d rather delete than keep on Facebook/ in my life, but they remain because it would be rude to cut them out, and it’s hard to admit when any relationship is hopeless. I went to a friend’s wedding last summer and didn’t care about it at all. I just heard that another friend – former coke dealer-turned-religious-rehab superstar – is getting married this weekend. And that’s great for them, but these people are so far away from me now. And I think of the basements in which we used to do the things that kids trapped in small towns do in basements on weekends, and I think of how permanent and proper it felt at the time, and I think of how much I didn’t want those days to be over, and how badly I didn’t want to move away to university, how badly I didn’t want any of us to move away to university, how the person I thought I’d probably marry I haven’t spoken to in more years than we were even together, how fake IDs and borrowed/ stolen vehicles were the accoutrements for a normal evening, how that segment of my youth was illegal and exciting and sleazy and free, but exhilarating and now totally dead. The past that was once so important to me, the people I swore I’d love forever in a hometown I thought I’d always care about, is totally irrelevant to my present day self, and I couldn’t change that if I wanted to, although I have tried. Hometowns just don’t matter anymore.

So here’s to the basement. And also, fuck you.

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image – daniellehelm