Once upon a time, my best friend Dave was friends with a really hot girl on Facebook. And one day while visiting Dave’s wall, I happened to notice a thumbnail image of this really hot girl. So I clicked on it. This lead me to her own personal page, which she had left wide open to the virtual world. Her name was Amy. She had long brown hair and blue eyes. I clicked on her photos and scanned through every one of them. I watched two years of her life flash by in grainy mobile uploads and over-exposed digital. I saw her at school in a dorm wearing sweats and a baseball hat. I saw her all stumbly on Bloor Street after having one too many at The Dance Cave. I saw her outside of Union Station in a big winter parka. I met her parents and her dog Barkley, and was given a tour of her childhood home from her Christmas trip to Saint John in 2008. I met her ex-boyfriend Brian. Saw them on a camping trip in Fundy National Park, saw them embracing in Times Square in the summer of 2009, I even saw them under the covers in bed. I was able to gather from her “likes” that she was a fan of graphic novels like “Tales from the Farm” and “The Walking Dead”. Her favourite TV show was “Battlestar Galactica” and she loved Sufjan Stevens. I knew her favourite coffee shop was Ezra’s Pound on Dupont. And I knew she had spent last weekend at the Arcade Fire show on Olympic Island. In just about every photo, Amy had a big toothy smile, which seemed to me to reveal a genuine happiness that I could easily idealize.
Not three days later: turning around from the cash register at the bar I work at, there she was. Wearing the same green blouse I had admired so much in one of her recent photos. She smiled and asked for a gin and tonic. Her voice was gentle, yet dry, dusty. Like she’d just had three smokes. I blushed. Made her drink. Lemon instead of lime. I glanced at Amy’s face, wanting to see that grin again, the one from her photos, where she was all teeth and gums, and full of a brightness that I believed could illuminate even my worst thoughts. She tipped me 50 cents. “I uh, like your top,” I said, my face flushing crimson as she said thanks and turned away from the bar. I watched her join her girlfriend at a table by the front window, and felt like a peeping, perving Tom. A sleazy, stalking Stew. Because I knew this woman. This lovely Amy from Saint John. Or at least felt like I did. And she didn’t have a goddamn clue. All because I clicked on a tiny thumbnail image of her and then followed a series of clicks and links that were openly, publicly available to me on the world wide web. And although I was convinced that she could love me, there was nothing I could say to her in real life.
Thanks Facebook. You’ve become wikipedia for people I don’t know. Visual fodder for a laptop dream. Shame on us all.