Facing up to an addiction

The 76-year-old woman walked down the hallway of Clearview Addictions Clinic, searching for the right department. She passed signs for the “HeroinAddiction Department (HAD),” the “Smoking Addiction Department (SAD)” and the “Bingo Addiction Department (BAD).”  Then she spotted the department she was looking for: “Facebook Addiction Department (FAD).”

It was the busiest department in the clinic, with about three dozen people filling the waiting room, most of them staring blankly into their Blackberries and iPhones.  A middle-aged man with unkempt hair was pacing the room, muttering, “I need to milk my cows. I need to milk my cows.”

A twenty-something man was prone on the floor, his face buried in his hands, while a curly-haired woman comforted him.

“Don’t worry. It’ll be all right.”

“I just don’t understand it. I thought my update was LOL-worthy, but none of my friends even clicked the ‘like’ button.”

“How long has it been?”

“Almost five minutes. That’s like five months in the real world.”

The 76-year-old woman waited until her name was called, then followed the receptionist into the office of Alfred Zulu, Facebook Addiction Counselor.

“Please have a seat, Edna,” he said with a warm smile. “And tell me how it all started.”

“Well, it’s all my grandson’s fault. He sent me an invitation to join Facebook. I had never heard of Facebook before, but I thought it was something for me, because I usually have my face in a book.”

“How soon were you hooked?”

“Faster than you can say ‘create a profile.’ I found myself on Facebook at least eight times each day –- and more times at night. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night to check it, just in case there was an update from one of my new friends in India. My husband didn’t like that. He said that friendship is a precious thing and should never be outsourced.”

“What do you like most about Facebook?”

“It makes me feel like I have a life. In the real world, I have only five or six friends, but on Facebook, I have 674. I’m even friends with Juan Carlos Montoya.”

“Who’s he?”

“I don’t know, but he’s got 4,000 friends, so he must be famous.”

“Facebook has helped you make some connections, I see.”

“Oh yes. I’ve even connected with some of the gals from high school –- I still call them ‘gals.’ I hadn’t heard from some of them in ages, so it was exciting to look at their profiles and figure out who’s retired, who’s still working, and who’s had some work done. I love browsing their photos and reading their updates. I know where they’ve been on vacation, which movies they’ve watched, and whether they hang their toilet paper over or under. I’ve also been playing a game with some of them.”

“Let me guess. Farmville?”

“No, Mafia Wars. I’m a Hitman. No one messes with Edna.”

“Wouldn’t you rather meet some of your friends in person?”

“No, not really. It’s so much easier on Facebook. We don’t need to gussy ourselves up. We don’t need to take baths or wear perfume or use mouthwash. That’s the best thing about Facebook –- you can’t smell anyone. Everyone is attractive, because everyone has picked a good profile pic. One of the gals is using a profile pic that was taken, I’m pretty certain, during the Eisenhower Administration.”

“What pic are you using?”

“Well, I spent five hours searching for a profile pic, but couldn’t find one I really liked. So I decided to visit the local beauty salon.”

“To make yourself look prettier?”

“No, to take a pic of one of the young ladies there. That’s what I’m using.”

“Didn’t your friends notice that you look different?”

“Some of them did, but I just told them I’ve been doing lots of yoga.”

“When did you realize that your Facebooking might be a problem?”

“I realized it last Sunday night, when I was on Facebook and saw a message on my wall from my husband: ‘I moved out of the house five days ago. Just thought you should know.’”

“What did you do?”

“What else? I unfriended him of course!”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Jayant Kumar says:

    Didn’t like the Facebook related coulmn. No spice. No fun. Too plain………. please stick to the normal humor stuff you do so well.
    Looks like u ran out of material.

  2. You are right on with this Facebook it is addictive Have a friend who plays all the games she can find on Facebook…. Me?? No way I have better things to do with my time but its a nice way to keep track of a few friends and grandkids as that is where they are including you LOL so now I can keep track of you as well Its the modern way but I hope meeting people in person will never go out of style that would not be good…:) Nel

  3. That’s weird – I read the humour column whenever it comes out and THIS one was the best for a long while. I found the style and humour really worked – maybe because the content was so close to real life. More, please.

  4. This piece relates to the reality of life vs. the virtual world. Every piece you write is witty and humorous. I NEVER miss the ‘Mad’ (Melvin Addiction Department)! Keep up the Mad work! Haha!

  5. I think this is a brilliant piece – funny on the surface, but so true.

  6. Loved it 🙂

  7. That is howlarious!!! Can’t stop laughing…

  8. Abhijit Gadre says:

    Loved to read this and identify with it. May I share it with my Facebook friends?

  9. This was so funny I had to share it with my friends on… guess where – Facebook. I hope I don’t land up in FAD meetings soon.
    LOL-worthy article for sure.!! Keep it going!

  10. Kathleen Alexander says:

    LOL! Glad to see I am not as addicted to as some people! (Has that excuse been used before?)

  11. lol. Another good one. Well written and full of humour and reality. Love it!

  12. LOL… I Like!
    Life has certainly changed and so have the gifts on Farmville!!
    Enjoyed this piece. I look forward to your next update.

  13. Thanks, everyone. Jayant, I knew this piece wouldn’t appeal to everybody, especially those who aren’t FB addicts.

  14. I wanted to add – I know a guy who has asked his wife to change his password to FB so that she regulates his hours on FB – that is how addicted he is.

  15. love it love it, LOL great piece

  16. My first time here. I loved this post 🙂 I can so identify with the whole thing. 🙂

  17. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to note that there is a huge ad to join an FB group right at the top next to the start of the column!

  18. Kuwaitia says:

    LOL! This is really funny. Although I’m not a “FB” addict (No, this is not denial), but I totally related to this post.
    Loved it and I’ll sure come back for more 🙂

  19. Haha that was funny!

  20. satish nair says:

    Funny? Its an indication of whats to come. I used to follow your writings on boloji…. glad to rediscover you again.

  21. preeti shekhawat says:

    my first foray into the site n online reading! lovely article made more significant with choice of central character. found it even more gratifying as slowly the facebook bubbles finallly dissolving. yeah, you guessed it- m not on facebook!

  22. That was funny!

  23. Very very nice!

  24. Wanjugu Wachira says:

    You talking about me? 😦 I need to visit the FAD!!! Brilliant piece!!!!

  25. Manish Tripathi says:

    Excruciatingly humorous!!! This piece depicts all the shades of FB we know and that too toned in subtle humor,sarcasm. Excellent.

  26. Thats hilarious !!!! ❤ "When did you realize you had a Facebook problem" "When my husband posted on my wall I moved out of the house 5 days ago, Just thought you should know."

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