Finally I cried uncle and turned to a therapist friend, Florence Falk, author of On My Own (Three Rivers, 2008), a groundbreaking book on solitude. She reminded me that there were no shortcuts to building strong friendships, digital or otherwise. "First, you need to look inside and figure out what's missing in your life—what hole are you trying to fill?" she said. "Then ask yourself: Is Facebook the right kind of place for you to make deep, intimate connections?"
By now the answer was obvious. No matter how many conquests I made, Facebook was never going to satisfy my need for intimacy and love. So I started easing myself away. I stopped doing Facebook at work, and I limited my exposure on nights and weekends. I felt blissfully liberated. It was a thrill to have private thoughts again—and the time and energy to "friend" myself.
I've started painting again. Next Sunday I'm planning to plant some peonies in the front yard and stock the fish pond with baby koi. Maybe I'll even read a book. As for Barbara, this summer we're planning to celebrate our 25th anniversary in the Adirondacks. I already know what my gift to her—and myself—will be: six nights, seven days, no Facebook.
Hugh Delehanty is the editor in chief and senior vice president for publications at AARP.