By Anthony Paull
Can someone tell me the name of the guy my friend Pete is dating? I want to find him on Facebook, but Pete won’t give me any leads. He thinks I’ll go blabbing about it in my column. He’s like, “I don’t want the country knowing what I put in my butt.”
And I’m like, “Don’t be so full of yourself. It’s not like you’re putting anything significant up there.” That’s when Pete stopped returning phone calls. The other day, I was informed he’s ignoring me by spending nights huddled up on a couch with his new man and a Netflix subscription. He doesn’t need me. That is ’til tonight when he blows up my phone. No “hello” or “how are ya?” – he gets right down to business.
“I can’t take it,” he says. “Get this: My boyfriend’s mad because I won’t accept his friend request on Facebook.”
“Then just do it.”
He huffs. “That’s something a man has to earn.”
I can’t help but laugh. “Let me get this straight. You’ll open the floodgates to your ass but….”
He interrupts. “I keep a healthy boundary online. I don’t have time to explain my life to him.”
Pete is talking about the photos and updates about past boyfriends that he’d rather keep secret. It’s a sticky situation, allowing a virtual yearbook to follow your every move. What will his new man think when he sees pics of drunk and slutty Pete in the Keys? Are those Pete’s balls slipping out of his Speedos? Whoops! Pete usually finds it humorous until a new man comes along and questions his ethics. In the past, Pete has lost boyfriends due to racy pics and posts. So he’s cautious about his online presence. He studies it, edits it, but ultimately admits he’s too egotistical to remove flattering pics that get tons of likes. Even if his balls are showing.
“My abs are tight in that ball pic,” he reminds me on the phone. “I worked out all summer for those results. I’m not taking it down. A girl can get away with a nip slip so….”
“So what’s the problem?”
He hesitates. “I know where letting him on my Facebook page will lead. Next, he’ll want me to update my status to state that we’re in a relationship. Then what? We become that boring couple? I can’t keep him by getting pregnant. I’m not that fortunate.”
Still, fearing a breakup, Pete caves the next day, allowing his new man on his page. He tags him in a beach pic where he refers to him as the “the next big thing.” It’s a nice gesture ’til it leads to more drama.
“See? This is how Facebook ruins relationships,” he says. “I announce that I’m in a relationship and I get two likes.”
“Perhaps nobody saw the pic,” I say. “Who cares?”
“I do. My relationship is worth more than two likes.” He pauses, thinking for a second. “Shit. What if nobody thinks he’s cute?”
I gasp. “I can’t believe you just said that. You’re basing the worth of your man on likes?”
“Yeah, it’s stupid. But think about it. On Facebook, my balls are more popular than my boyfriend. How am I supposed to live with that?”
The next day, Pete deletes the pic of his man, saying it was an unflattering pic anyway. He plans to edit it with colorful lighting, saturating the skin tones. When he removes the imperfections he’ll repost it for a better response. The thought makes me cringe, but this is why Facebook added the “like” feature. It’s a virtual reminder of the human competitive spirit. It keeps people coming back – the need to be included, to feel as if one’s life is worth watching. But when you’re wasting time and energy on your online persona do you lose what’s important in the here and now? I’ve seen so many magical moments interrupted for a photo op. It’s nice to keep friends updated on your life. But to let them determine how you look, who to date, and how to live – isn’t that going too far? Pete has come to believe that people only like him if his life, his body, looks perfect. Is that common?
“I reposted the pic,” Pete boasts over coffee the next day. “It got 25 likes.” I merely nod, remaining neutral. “I noticed you didn’t like it,” he says.
“I liked it the first time you posted it,” I remind him.
“Yeah? What’s different?”
“I could see the real you.”