I realized I had a problem when I found myself, off on a dream vacation, sneaking into the bathroom at 3:00 a.m. to check my homepage. This was no ordinary bathroom: it was a luxurious all-white mini-spa with an oversize Italianate tub, deep-purple orchids and votive candles everywhere, at a chic hotel in the Florida Keys. As far as I was concerned, though, I could have been staying in a Motel 6. Because all I cared about at that moment was whether I had acquired any new Facebook friends.
I closed the door gently to avoid waking my wife, Barbara, the lightest sleeper on the planet, and opened my laptop. And there it was, a short sentence that I never expected to see: "Hugh and Hugh Jackman are now friends."
Yes, this was the real Hugh Jackman, or at least it looked that way from the picture. I felt giddy and a little flushed. Not because I had any interest in actually relating to Hugh Two (as I later came to call him). In fact, the thing I liked best about the guy was his first name. But I knew that Hugh Two was one heck of a great Facebook "get." Adding his name to my list of friends would instantly improve my Hollywood cred and make it easier for me to enlist other A-list friends. And that's exactly what happened. Within days Richard Gere, Julianne Moore, Warren Buffet, and several other celebrities—well, okay, obvious impostors like "Danzel Washington" and "Turner Tina" don't count—joined my coterie.
Barbara was unimpressed. "You know what you are?" she said the next day out by the pool when I excitedly told her the news. "You're a Facebook slut. Why don't you ever have a real conversation with a real person?
"Someone like me, for instance."
Ouch. Ever since I had signed on to Facebook a few months earlier, caught up in a nationwide craze that has made boomers the website's fastest-growing demographic, Barbara had been poking fun at my habit. But now she was rolling out the heavy artillery, and I didn't have an answer. I smiled, I prevaricated, I acted cute—all the time thinking, "How can I tactfully slip away and check to see if I have any more new friends?" At that point I was still in a very early stage of Facebook addiction: denial.
How did this happen? How did I transform virtually overnight from a relatively serious person into a shameless celebrity groupie? Throughout my career as a writer and editor, I've met countless A-list celebrities and worked closely with more than a few. I'm usually the epitome of journalistic reserve when I encounter a famous person in my work. But in the bizarre, uninhibited world of Facebook, another side of my personality emerged: the part that likes to appear as if I'm someone I'm really not. And that was just the beginning.