We've Got Hollywood Covered

Who Needs Friends? I Have Facebook!

So it’s started to occur to me that I’m spending way too much time on Facebook, and that there appears to be a correlation between my present workload and the propensity to justify the hours spent in the throes of Status Update Fixation and Commentary Mania.


It becomes a sort of social network-as-syringe, addiction through monitor-driven camaraderie.


With me, it started innocently enough, as these things so often do. Oh, I’ll just accept a couple of friend requests, I said to myself, just to balance out my otherwise active face-to-face social existence. Pretty soon it builds to 50, then 100, then 200.


Finally, like a cancer, it explodes, overtaking everything in its path. My friend list now stands at an insufferable 534.


I can’t say I’ve ever so much as spoken to at least 100 people on the list, just random people in the ether who wanted to “friend” me and whose anonymous attention I accepted as a puppy dog craves head pats from every passing stranger.


It becomes a collection issue. I’m more important than you, more popular than you, more all-around fabulous because I’ve got more friends.


It matters not the slightest that maybe 10 of my 534 would actually bother to attend my funeral, even if my final update were, “Ray Richmond is now deceased and requests the honor of your presence at his memorial service.”


But I had this Facebook thing well under control. If someone threw a sheep at me, I’d fling it right back in their face along with a cyber martini. When I was too busy to really futz with it, Facebook was a modest, 15-minute-per-week play toy.


I rarely played any of that comment ping-pong. I was the guy who was above the fray: part of the machine, but too cool to actually devote it more than a passing thought.


Then I lost my primary job means of support in June. And seemingly overnight, it was suddenly me who was sending out the friend requests and working to show my big-shot bonafides by lobbying celebrities for their “friendship.”


Michael Chiklis. (Ding!) Peter Gallagher. (Ding!) Nicolas Cage. (Still waiting…prima donna.) It was more than pathetic. It was…well, OK, pathetic probably covers it.


I began to see friend acceptances the way I once viewed story pitch approvals. Instead of updating my status once or twice a week, it became a half-dozen times a day. (“Ray Richmond is updating his status once again. Please bear with him.”)


What’s more, I began engaging in lengthy debates in response to statements and links posted by others. Everything my vast circle of friends discussed now seemed somehow fascinating and instantly in need of a comprehensive reply.


My unspoken approach to existence was, “Who needs work? I have Facebook!” It was all I needed to keep me occupied and gratified. Friends and relationships outside of my Facebook circle suddenly were meaningless and fell away.


I sensed that an intervention was planned, but which I deftly avoided by pretending, in my status updates, to be out of the country.


Yes, I had overnight become one of those people I used to make fun of. It was that ironic state of being: isolation through participation.


When Sen. Ted Kennedy died earlier this week, it was like a veritable Facebook summit conference for me, hopping from one comment and observation and eulogy to the next. It was like fixing on four narcotics at once.


This isn’t unfortunately one of those blog posts with a happy ending. The truth is that, as of the moment, it has no real ending at all.


I’m still struggling to reconcile my Facebook dependence with the multi-faceted man I once was, suspecting there is a place of temperance somewhere over the keyboard.


But I’m not even going to pretend that I’m there yet and remain unconvinced that a power greater than Facebook can restore me to sanity.


This may well be God’s way of telling me I really could use a steady job. It naturally goes without saying that anything more than a few hours a week would cut way into my Facebook time.


I wonder if there are any FB Anonymous meetings in my area. And by my area, of course, I mean the Internet.

An entertainment journalist since 1984, Ray Richmond has served variously as a television reporter, critic and columnist for Daily Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the L.A. Daily News, the Orange County Register and the late Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He is also the author of four books, including the bestselling "The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family." When not writing, he can often be found hustling quarters as a street mime in Spokane, Washington. Email: tvrayz@aol.com. He also regularly blogs at www.manbitestinseltown.com.