Annie, a married seventh-year associate that I work with, seems to be using Facebook as an alternate universe where she brags about imaginary exploits and engages in online affairs using a faux persona. Apparently, when it comes to having a mid-life crisis, Facebook is the new Ferrari.
Up to this point, Annie has always exhibited limitless attention-seeking behaviors, including (but not limited to) constantly sharing private details about herself. I’ve never asked her a single personal question, yet I know that she was raised in a strict Protestant evangelical family and went wild in college with cocaine and clubbing; that she briefly split from her husband and had an affair with an auto mechanic from the western suburbs (and claims he is still in love with her and that his new wife stalks her); and how much she spends every time she goes to Target. Once she (ironically) openly pouted at an associate cocktail hour because no one noticed her new Juvederm injections.
Last week, she and I traveled to Dallas for the case we work on together. On the way (thanks to Gogo Inflight Internet), she spent the entire time on Facebook and randomly turned to me to exclaim things like, “I’m friends with an artist from Brazil who painted a psychedelic portrait of me and posted a photo of it online—I wonder if that makes his wife mad!” and “I bet it makes the new wife of my old lover so jealous when she sees the pictures of my fabulous life!” and “My yoga instructor is so hot, and he just wrote on my wall!” With her, these non-sequiturs are par for the course, but something did spark my attention—the fact that her profile didn’t look like it had her real name on it.
Now, my personal relationship with Facebook developed over two phases: Hostility and Acceptance. During Hostility, I insisted that anyone over 23 was pathetically misplaced on the site. Whenever a co-worker professed to being a member, I would gripe, “Facebook called and they want their demographic back.”
Hostility lasted until this past December when I discovered (after signing in as my 23-year-old sister) that Facebook serves up the best Schadenfreude the web has to offer. I created a profile and have since made countless satisfying discoveries, e.g. that Jim P. (the frat boy who mercilessly used me junior year in college) recently married a fat girl and sells Wissahickon Spring Water for a living.
However, I am new enough to the phenomenon to have still been unaware that Facebook poses the risk of serving as an ill-advised tool for histrionic personality types to act out fantasies. I squinted at Annie’s computer screen in disbelief when she turned her attention to the stewardess and memorized her nom de plume: “Mackenzie Smith.” Later in my hotel room, I searched for the name and was delighted to discover that I could access the entirety of Mackenzie’s profile simply by joining the same geographic network.
One thing was for certain—Mackenzie was having a lot more fun than Annie and me. Thanks to her average of 11 status updates per day, I learned that Mackenzie was “Drinking margaritas with the girls and shopping for Louboutins” on a night when Annie and I were both stuck in the office until 1 a.m. working on a brief. While Annie was getting ready to defend depositions in Dallas and oversee my review of client documents, Mackenzie was “Looking forward to a few days at the spa with my honey in Scottsdale!!!” In fact, at the very moment that Annie was wedged next to me in coach, Mackenzie was “Sooo excited to be having a Bloody Mary in First Class… Gotta love upgrades!”
Had I stopped reading after the status updates, perhaps I would’ve concluded that the faux profile was a mostly harmless form of adult imaginative play. Sadly, I had only just begun to peel back the onion. I followed a thread of wall postings and learned that the “yoga instructor” she referred to was a very good-looking guy, several years her junior, who she apparently met and “friend-ed” using her alternate personality after meeting him in a salon waiting room. Judging by Mackenzie’s lengthy friend list, it seemed that anytime she met a male stranger in everyday life, she followed up with a friend request and lots of outrageous flirting.
It seems she met the “Brazilian artist” on a long flight—hence the string of wall postings beginning with “I hope you’re recovering from the red eye!” and rapidly evolving into “Too bad…I’ve always wanted to be a member of the mile high club ;o)”
As for the extra-marital portrait Annie alluded to, a click on “View photos of Mackenzie” quickly displayed a gallery of art the Brazilian created, photographed, posted, and “tagged” her in. Without the tags, I wouldn’t have even recognized her likeness, given that they all portrayed psychedelic, hyper-sexualized priestesses floating in the air surrounded by flames.
After 45 minutes of familiarizing myself with Mackenzie, I was less than thrilled to spend the next 5 days with her creator.
Sure enough, given what I already know about Annie’s shamelessness, I wasn’t all that surprised when after our third 12-hour day, she burst into dramatic tears at the hotel bar after two and a half glasses of Pinot Grigio.
“I’ve been having such a miserable time in my marriage, I don’t know what to do or why I went back to him. If he doesn’t wake up and start paying me the attention I know I deserve, I’m going to be left with no other option, you know?”
She trailed off and dabbed her eyes. I stared at her and anticipated hearing something about online affairs and fictional characters. Instead, with almost rehearsed gestures, she leaned in and lowered her voice.
“All I’m saying is, I can’t be blamed for giving into temptation. They are lining up for me, that’s for sure.”
I nodded speechlessly.
Aside from The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Annie/Mackenzie is the most interesting reality entertainment that’s come my way in ages. I don’t know how long she can keep up the ruse before it all comes crashing down, but I plan to watch what happens.
If the overwhelming emptiness wrought by the combination of a loveless marriage and slaving away in BigLaw can only be quieted by developing online multiple personality disorder, then maybe I should be a little more comfortable with my single status. At least for a little while.