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Last year, right around this time, a good friend of mine went missing. He just vanished, without a trace.
None of the events leading up to his disappearance seemed unusual or out of the ordinary. There were no clues, not even a goodbye note left behind to indicate what his fate might have been.
The debate among our mutual friends about what could have happened to him went on for months, but nobody had the slightest idea.
I had known Cory for over thirty years. We first met in middle school and quickly became fast friends. That friendship continued throughout high school, where we hung together on an almost daily basis. But as we moved into college, and then our early twenties, our lives started to move in different directions and I began to see less of him.
From time to time we connected at the odd get-together or reunion and because of our shared history we would fall back into our old rhythms just as if no time had passed since we last met. Despite this, neither one of us made too much of an effort to stay in touch, and I wouldn’t say we were close.
However during the two years prior to his disappearance, ever since he signed up for Facebook, I had begun to follow along with the events of his life, including the activities of his three young children and his wife of seventeen years. Slowly but surely we began to “touch base” more often, albeit in a virtual way.And that’s why his disappearance was even more puzzling to me.
Oh, did I mention that he disappeared from Facebook?
One day I went to post something on his timeline and he was gone. I couldn’t find him.
He wasn’t listed among my “Friends” anymore and my inquiries about him in the search bar came back empty. I didn’t have his phone number or email address, nor did I know exactly where he lived, so for all intents and purposes he was gone, having slipped the surly bonds of Earth, or at least the social network.
Then about six months later as I was perusing my Newsfeed, the most miraculous thing happened. As suddenly and unexpectedly as he had disappeared, he reappeared.
In what could only be described as a Lazarus-like event, he came back from the “dead,” announced by a photo picturing champagne filled flutes with strawberries bobbing inside, perched high upon the windowsill of a high-end hotel room. The caption read;
“Having strawberries and champagne with my sweetheart right now. Life is good!”
“Honey,” I yelled out to my wife in the other room. “I found Cory.”
“What?” she replied. “Where?”
“On Facebook. He’s getting divorced.”
“Wait, how do you know that? Did he say that on Facebook?”
“No, but he’s posted the ‘strawberries and champagne’ photo.”
“Oh,” she said. “His poor kids…….”
I’ve seen this phenomenon before with a number of my male Facebook friends.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the “strawberries and champagne” photo goes up on their page. It’s the universal code for “I’ve left my wife and I am playing out some contrived notion of what romance is supposed to be with a chippy half my age.”
It’s the universal code for “I’ve left my wife and I am playing out some contrived notion of what romance is supposed to be with a chippy half my age.”
How did I know this was the case with Corey? Trust me, when you’ve been married for seventeen years and have three small kids, chances are you’re not all of a sudden going to be doing “strawberries and champagne,” at a four-star hotel with your wife.
Although not as common, I have also seen the analog variation of this phenomenon from some of my female Facebook friends. It usually goes like this.
A photo — taken at a bar with a smartphone — of a martini glass filled with green liquid and a cherry, shows up on their wall with a caption that reads something like;
“Out with my girls tonight, rocking the appletini’s!”
When you see this come up on a mother of three’s Facebook wall on a Wednesday night, you can be pretty sure that the divorce papers are in the mail and she is already sleeping with a personal trainer named “Vinny.”
In fact, you can almost tell how bad the settlement is going to be by the type of picture that is posted.
If it contains various cheeses, meats, crackers, and olives in between two glasses of Chardonnay, with a view of the skyline in the background, it’s going to be bad.
But when you see the caption, “Luxuriating with my baby before our spa treatment in Vegas,” somebody is going to get taken to the cleaners’ big time.
Sadly, I see this behavior more on my side of the gender gap, and it’s indicative of one of the more pathetic character traits of males.
That at certain times — especially when it comes to matters of the heart — we can be ridiculously cliché’, to the point where even someone blind, without a cane, and thousands of miles away, can read between the lines. It’s always been that way.
Back in the 80′s my aunt fell in love an Australian man, moved to his home country, had two kids, and built a life together. I hadn’t spoken to either of them in over twenty years when one day my mother casually mentioned that my aunt’s husband, my Uncle Charles, had taken up crewing.
“Apparently he is really getting into it,” she explained to me. “He goes to the rowing club and practices three days a week.”
“Really,” I said. “So how long has he been cheating on Aunt Cynthia?”
“What? What do you mean cheating? Why on Earth would you say such a silly thing like that?”
“Mom, he’s forty-seven. He hasn’t exercised a day in his life. And now, all of a sudden he is into crewing? C’mon, do the math.”
“Oh, that is just stupid talk. There is nothing unusual about a grown man deciding that he wants to get in better shape and then doing something about it. Stop being so negative. You have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Okay, fine.” I said.
Two weeks later my aunt called to say that she was packing up the kids, moving back to the US, and starting divorce proceedings. It turns out that my uncle had been cheating. With a twenty-seven year old woman. Who happened to be a member of the Australian Olympic crewing team.
Wow, who’d have known?
Social media didn’t create this phenomenon among men, it just allowed it to scale and replicate in a predictable pattern. And once the “S&C post” goes up, as we will now forever call it, the script is pretty standardized going forward.
Status immediately goes from “Married” to “In a relationship,” hyperlinked of course to the new love of their life’s page, and all timeline posts prior to meeting their new soul-mate are “scrubbed.”
Then it gets weird.
And by weird I mean, bizarre. Usually a string of random, airy, and forced pseudo-poetic posts like the following materialize over the next few weeks;
Sometimes in life we look for things we shouldn’t. And it takes someone special to show us that what we want, what we desire, what we yearn for is right in front of us. I’m so thankful for all my friends, and family, and loved ones who are there to support me and the special people in my life.
Often we get lost in the hectic pace of this crazy world and I’m blessed to know now how to be at peace with that world, thanks to my new best friend and partner. Life is good. I love you all and can’t wait for you to join me on this new journey in the next chapter of my life.
Finally comes the profile picture update, which prominently shows them and that new “best friend” of theirs, usually wearing a low-cut mini-dress and six inch heels.
What bugs me most about this part of the process is how this new person is just foisted upon us without any explanation, context, or heads up. They just appear, as if they were perpetual, having always been there.
And the strange thing is that nobody seems to care. Cyber friends just put up comments like, “Dude, so happy for you both,” or “So glad you are in a good place now in your life.”
Dude, I’ve been your friend on Facebook for two years and I’ve known you since sixth grade. I know you have been married for seventeen years. I introduced you to your wife. I was at your goddamn wedding. I threw the bachelor party for Christ’s sake. I mean at least message me and fill me in on the backstory bro!
But for some reason, the cloak of Facebook allows men to think that they can pull off something they would never attempt to do in the real world.
Imagine a group of couples who had spent the last ten years going out once a month for drinks and dinner. Then one night, out of the blue with no warning, your pal just shows up with a new lady at his side who is so young she gets carded by the cocktail waitress.
And your buddy doesn’t say anything about her, or who she is, or why she is there, or why his wife, your mutual friend, and the mother of his children, is suddenly gone.
Of course you would try to be nice to the new addition, but she doesn’t know the history. The nicknames. The inside jokes. All the little subtleties that make a relationship special. And in the end you’d just stare at her with a vacant smile on your face, knowing that in six months she’ll be a memory anyway.
That’s the real world version of what too many people seem to be doing on Facebook these days. I get it — it’s their life. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to endorse it. But I guess I have to accept it.
However, there’s no way in hell that I am going to accept a “friend request” from their transitory relationship placeholder. Even I have my standards.
Brian Lund self-describes as: Great father. Good friend. Decent writer. Lacking husband. Solid drummer. Sometimes funny. Often A-hole. Terrible poker player. Too smart. Though he is questioning his parenting skills as his kids get older. In addition to fatherhood, Brian writes about another equally precarious but potentially rewarding endeavor, trading the stock market.