When Titus recovered from the fever that had hospitalised him all week, he returned to his Facebook page more grumpily than was his wont. There was not a remark on his wall about his seven day absence from the scene. He looked at his ‘friends’ list. It was 2454 strong – two people had dropped off since he last checked but he was too angry to investigate who they were. In the past he would have checked, and stalked them for a week or two. Today he could not care less. 2454. He realised he did not have 2454 friends in real life. Indeed when he came down to it, he did not have 245 friends. He paused, watching his blinking cursor. Did he even have 24 friends in the whole world? Suddenly flustered, he pulled up a writing pad and began to write. It was furious at first, the writing. – Philip, Caustus, Godwin, Akprokpa, Pulule, Davis, Phanuel… but after the first dozen his writing became more sedate, almost reluctant… Davis… no he already had Davis… the lady at the Supermarket…. they spoke every blessed day, but could he call her a friend if he didn’t know her name? He struggled… Gertie…Gladys… He pushed away his writing pad, even more depressed, and turned to his laptop once again. He did not have 24 friends then. The 2454 Facebook profiles did not really represent friends, they were… names. He clicked on Grace’s profile… yet, he knew so much about her. He had seen all 89 of her photographs several times. He almost felt he had been with her on that bungee jump in Australia… but who was he kidding! He did not even know if she was a chain-smoker… if she stammered when she spoke… he only knew her in the flat, one-dimensional way one ‘knew’ the characters in a novel! He clicked on Marcel’s profile. Titus had attended seven of his events – Marcel threw the best internet parties. Da Silva’s wall was the most exciting place on the internet… he was just the raconteur. The same news went round the web but he knew how to put the best spin on it…. Cecile was in her 80s but she was such a wag! Her wall was the place to be if you wanted some naughty jokes delicately served… more double entendres than you could shake a mouse at… he smiled just to think about her.
Then he remembered he was depressed. He had been at death’s door! He could have died on the sofa and none would be the wiser! He typed it into the status box, although he knew he would never send it. I could have died on the sofa! It was nobody’s business after all. Facebook was just a place to kill some time, share some videos. People turned back to their real lives for real things… like being sick, dying… he was back in the trough of depression now and he stabbed the delete key… only to see the line jump to his status bar! He scrambled to delete the entry, groaning at his fat fingers, at the embarrassing mistake, but before he could quite click on the x, the first comment was online. Awww… what ails you, loverboy? Loverboy. That was Cecile’s nickname for him, although quite a few people now called him that as well. He was a confirmed bachelor, had never married, and was now a ‘loverboy’ online. That was so typical of the fakeness of Facebook. He bit his finger. He would claim it was a joke. As he began to write, another comment popped in. OMG! Were you ill? Titus, are you joking as usual? / He’s joking. He’s always fooling. / He means he could have died laughing. / Yes, ICHDLOTS – I-Could-Have-Died-Laughing-On-The-Sofa getit? / We getit, LOL, we’re not retarded/ LOL / That’s a new one, loverboy’s coined a new one. / He didn’t coin it, I did. I get the royalties! That last one was Da Silva. Titus had to chuckle at that one.
Then he reminded himself that he was supposed to be depressed. He scratched his unshaven chin as the comments grew. It was 32 comments and counting. There was now some concern that he hadn’t commented again. Some comments were mushily sentimental. He looked at the list of commentators. They were the usual suspects. He realised that he had 2454 names on his Facebook ‘friends’ list… but maybe two dozen of them were real friends. If 24 people turned up at his door he could have a party. If 2454 people actually came, it could be a nasty riot. His mobile phone buzzed once and he looked at the text message: Seriously, are you OK? It was Peter. Peter Olds used to be a Facebook name… He lived in Sacramento with his rare yellow cat. He was asthmatic and his closest companion was a bottle of oxygen. And his laptop. He rarely joined in online conversations, but he was always online. And once before, he had sent Titus a birthday message. But this was the first time in Titus’ three years on Facebook that any one would use the telephone number on his Info Profile to send him a real time text. Was Peter about to move from a ‘name’ to a ‘friend’?
Titus tried to remind himself that he was depressed, but he found himself grinning, drafting a response mentally. Who was he fooling anyway? He pulled up the keyboard and dived back in.