The night before, she had spent hours on planning the details. The hairs better be unkempt to contrast the nude makeup. The face cupped in a white pillow to add sharpness to the just-woke-up jawline. A book flipped aside, its identity concealed, to inspire curiosity. The loose t-shirt, light pink in color, on her to draw eyes to her femininity. The angled window drapes to let the right amount of light fall on her face. She thought of a caption—“When the sun sees the moon.”
She woke up at 6:30 am the following day. It didn’t take her much time to get the perfect shot. She, as usual, took longer than the usual—more than an hour—to edit the selfie to match the girl in her imaginations. Visuals of people going gaga for her on Facebook trended in her daydreams.
With hopes higher than her latest heels from Jimmy Choo, she posted the photo on Facebook. The anticipation of the magical red bar to notify her of likes on her photo dripped from her eyes glued to the phone’s screen. After almost 20 minutes of desperate waiting, she found a thick ring of blood on her index finger. She was so overtaken by anxiety that she didn’t realize that she was biting her finger.
Rita waited for seven hours to see her rise to stardom. She got twenty-three likes on her selfie. She sobbed. Pain rented the air.
The 31-year-old technology journalist lived in a blue-and-white prison named Facebook. The red notification was her blood.
That grief-stricken Rita bore little resemblance to the optimistic, confident girl she pretended to be at work. Her fingers trembled, her body drooped as her scary addiction to Facebook left her helpless.
“I don’t exist. No one notices me.”
Her cries came in gasps as she recalled how she had cooked up stories of her “wise” interactions with her baby girl to become a popular mom on Facebook. Rita yelped as if wounded by the knowledge of how her friends’ “viral” parenting posts describing their children’s sudden, profound thoughts had pressurized her to credit scripted comments—duly hash-tagged—to her four-year-old daughter.
To calm down, she sat down on her bed to continue writing the editorial piece for the Sunday issue.
Mark Zuckerberg, along with 40-odd geniuses, controls the attention of two billion people. With Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp under his belt now, the Wartime CEO is the undisputed king of the attention economy. Nothing stops him. Riots, genocides, data breaches, Instagram and WhatsApp founders’ quitting, bad press, fake news, ad boycott. He apologizes and moves on to his next game. The new-age Emperor Augustus Caesar is unstoppable; so are the rising profits of Facebook.
Every second of your attention makes Mark richer. He eats your attention for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, shamelessly does he serve the rest to few dictators to manipulate you to vote for them.
It is unlikely that the single-minded Zuckerberg or the brilliant Sandberg would ever do anything to discourage the dangerously addictive behavior that keeps billions of people hooked on the opium-like newsfeed. Even those who understand how addiction works are held captive by the chances of dopamine release from a notification.
She couldn’t write a word. Her eyelids hung in shame.
After years of self-denial, Rita finally booked an appointment with a psychologist.
*Rita isn’t the real name of the individual.