Social (Media) Distortion

Hexa Hedron_BetteoI pursued him with a single minded determination that had been notably lacking in my previous endeavours. I wanted Richard to be mine like I craved my next breath, my next dream. He was a friend of a friend. When family and friends had met Richard, they always expressed surprise; to them, he did not quite live up to the movie star status I’d bestowed on him. It did not matter. Nor did it matter that Richard did not want me the way I wanted him. He told me, over and over, that he did not want a serious relationship; anyone as singular, as exclusive, as a girlfriend.

So I played the game. I worked on making myself as attractive to the typical man as possible. I did not nag him, did not discuss anything vaguely emotional; I did not bother him with my thoughts or fears. I was always ready to go drinking, to party until the small hours. I took whatever scrap he deigned to throw me and was grateful for it. Loving him was an exercise in patience and frustration; I could afford to be patient as I knew that he would eventually see me as his ideal partner, as the perfect girl he discussed so readily with his friends. I endured frustration over how cool he could be, how casually cruel. I was the unwanted guest at the wedding; given a pity invite to view the bride at the church, but excluded for the main event. I spent my spare time working on my campaign, as I privately referred to my efforts. I had plenty of spare time, since I’d been let go. I employed the ever present social media world to my advantage. I spent hours doing my hair and makeup to get the kind of selfie that looked like me but after a makeover from the gods. Instagram was peppered with my “casual” pictures, Facebook inundated with casual statuses about the cool events I was going to. It worked. Friends commented on how much fun I was having, how hot my pictures were. I was seeing Richard several times a week and was content he saw the cultivated image I was portraying. He refused to acknowledge our relationship, even online, which hurt, but I was okay.

February signalled the start of the end for us. I was distracted, thinking of ways I could convince him to spend Valentine’s Day with me. My mind was littered with red hearts and chocolate boxes. It wasn’t unusual for Richard to ignore my texts, so alarm bells didn’t go off as they should have. It was during one of my routine checks of his Instagram account that I first saw the picture of her. “#Lunchdate” was my only clue. I obsessed over that picture. Was it coincidence? He was ignoring me and lunching with some unfiltered blonde. Was she his cousin, some family friend? Did he mean date as in date, date? I tried frantically to find out more about her; spent a frustrated hour counting the “likes” and analysing them. A few hours later, a terse mail message put me out of my misery. He told me it was fun hanging out with me, but we’d have to stop, he actually had a girlfriend now.

When I’d stopped crying, my brain, wired and edgy from a bottle of sauvignon blanc (#sorrynotsorry) started working on a new plan. What could I do to show him what he was missing, how it was me who should be his girlfriend? I ramped up my campaign. Strategic nights in (and out) with previously neglected girlfriends were the perfect excuse to tag myself at great locations; pictures of me sitting on strangers laps; statuses about the hours I’d logged at the gym. I was Perfect Girl on speed; I could talk about my wild, drunken nights with the girls, and then post an angelic looking picture of me with my aging Granny. I was the size 8 girl posing in front of the giant pizza, coyly nibbling the crust (“I love to eat!!!”) yet my Twitter was awash with smug updates detailing my workouts. The key is crafting an update where people like you, but don’t hate you; you need to seem approachable yet unattainable.

Nothing worked. I became obsessed with his social media accounts; I stalked their relationship with the intensity I’d once pursued him. My spare time was spent gorging on his page, her page, and her friends’ pages; until my eyes burned and I knew more about her family than I did my own. It was an addiction I could not keep sated.

That was a year ago. My battle has been a bit tougher than I previously imagined. Richard and that girl are still together. I keep in touch by his social media accounts, of course. (They celebrated their one year anniversary with a weekend in London; I was glad to see he finally got the job he wanted). My days are a bit awkward. The tension between my mother and me, well it’s been steadily rising. Mum doesn’t seem to be aware that there are no jobs out there; what’s the point in applying for them? I’ve lost a few friends, lots of snide remarks about doing nothing and wasting my days. That and being called a user. Whatever. I keep myself busy. I wake up with my eyes stuck together from yesterday’s mascara and a head full of dreams. By the time I check all of the accounts and pages and see what Richard is up to, it’s almost lunchtime. If I have time, I’ll change out of my pyjamas. I try not to see the look on my father’s face and the noisy sighs from my mother as she hovers. I obligingly lift my legs up so she can hoover beneath my chair. Depending on what music Richard is listening to, I might browse for some obscure videos and upload them. Blog a little. The day is almost over then.

I’ve noticed the “likes” have been drying up. I have an itchy feeling in my stomach I don’t want to identify as desperation. I have begun to rely on affirmation from the majority of my 600 followers and friends. I notice I’m being edged out by the girls actually going places, with fresh pictures and fresh content. I need to take drastic measures. There are lots of topics trending on anxiety and depression. (Seriously, check Twitter.)

I doubt very much that I am depressed. Apathy and boredom, while not the most pleasant of mixes are not the same as depression. Nor is loneliness. Sometimes I wake up and feel very low but all it takes is a few comments on my latest picture or fifteen plus likes on my status on Facebook and I’m flying. But the last week or so a new plan has been forming in my head, one that I can’t ignore. I lie awake and plan my updates; the surreptitious pictures and the moody, ambiguous posts. I imagine Richard reading them and feeling worried, concerned. Richard hasn’t initiated any contact with me in the last year, but he hasn’t exactly ignored my messages either.

So it is simple. A speedy visit to my GP procures the prescription. I know how to play him, how to look shocked when he suggests a trial of a mild antidepressant. Then I post a picture I’ve taken a few days previously; I especially like it. I put the black and white filter on it, and it’s me, looking sad, out the window. I looked up a few quotes about depression and so I stick one underneath.

The picture hasn’t been the success I hoped it would be. I use another and this time put some hashtags in there for good measure. #Depression. #Anxiety. That ought to get their attention. Their sympathy. I sit back and wait for the likes and sympathetic remarks to roll in.

Twenty-four hours later, I am still waiting.

This just won’t do. My mind moves frantically through ideas and possibilities, franticly remembering all the ploys I’ve already employed, to varying degrees of success.

Sickness is always a good one. A crowd pleaser, if you will. But it’s been done.

Death won’t do. I’d gladly fake some obscure relatives’ death but my cousins follow my various social media accounts.

Shit.

I look around in desperation. My gaze alights on my slim, tanned wrist. An idea forms. An insidious plan that will get them to notice, get them to sympathise at long last. I’ll start off with some oblique references, some blurry scars. I’ll build to the scare, the attempt.

I will get back to where I was, no matter what means I have to use.

I will get their attention, their sympathy.

They will remember me.

foto2The featured image accompanying this poem, entitled ‘Hexa Hedron’, have been used with the permission of artist Patricio Betteo.

About Patricio Betteo: Patricio Betteo, son of south-american parents, was born in Mexico City in the late 70’s. Since 1999 he has focused on comics and illustration. His work has been published in a great deal of mexican journals, magazines and children’s books. He has also done some videogame art for Electronic Arts and American McGee. He also spends his days playing guitar and painting.

36 comments

  1. mabelannamarch@gmail.com'
    M. Anna

    I’ve been trying to link you to my blog all night, I have a few posts I think you’d appreciate, not a million miles away from this story. It was a pleasure meeting you last week and I am very proud of you and I think this story is very entertaining. Will try and link you to my blog again, if not here, I’ll try on Facebook.
    Best,
    Anna M.

  2. aaronjmerchant@gmail.com'
    Aaron J

    Caitríona, I found this after our conversation on the TBL forum the other day! You’re right, love the Rollick concept, hoping to submit myself. Love your story, very clever…wish I’d known ten years ago this would be the fate of social media!

    • mabelannamarch@gmail.com'
      M. Anna

      Aaron, I was thinking the same thing myself- Rollick is such an interesting place! It’s definitely inspired me to get working!

  3. tlawlessscanlon@gmail.com'
    Teresa

    Cat, I’m finally able to leave a comment, the others wouldn’t send but J set me up on his laptop. I love this story and I am so proud of you. Great story xxx

  4. wilmamatt82@gmail.com'
    Wilma Matthews

    I always enjoy your writing, have seen a bit about this on Twitter and finally got to read it for myself. John was right, I love it!
    Wilma x

  5. donohoas@tcd.ie'
    Ashling

    Such a well written piece and so relevant in today’s social media. So much suspense and tension in a short piece. I’d love to read more.

  6. martinks@tcd.ie'
    Katie Martin

    Binding and yet sobering. To have read this ten years ago would have been a great boon to our formative years. Very well written.

  7. sinead.g.kennedy@live.com'
    Sinead

    Another amazingly written piece <3

    A little window into a personal moment with a modern twist of dealing with social disorders.
    Very current and powerful!

  8. Gilsephym@yahoo.co.uk'
    Maggie

    I reread this a number of times. I feel as if I know this girl in the story, in fact, I feel as if we all know a girl like this! Skilled work

  9. DeirdreMcMorrow@yahoo.co.uk'
    Deirdre

    What a brave piece. I see this kind of thing on social networks all the time but no-one really talks about it. Love it.

  10. sarahmurphy484@gmail.com'
    Lanegan

    Loved how the author interpreted the theme. Definite echoes of Patrick Bateman here. The phrasing and structure never changes, but yet the tension builds and the story gets, yes, more frantic as it progresses. That’s skill.

  11. murieldancingqueen@gmail.com'
    Moscovitz

    Chilling. Quite an unsettling look at social media and cuts a little too close to the bone for some of us…#onlygodcanjudgeme

  12. katie-somerville@hotmail.com'
    Katie Somerville

    Great insight into the darkness of social media. How it can so easily become an addiction, a purpose to many people’s lives. Love your work Cathy.

  13. Seannaryan@gmail.com'
    Seanna

    What a brilliant story. It shows the reality of obsessive social media use. Want to read more from this Ms Caitriona Mutphy.

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