Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rubbernecking Human Beings

“We become whole, healthy, harmonized, only when we acknowledge our innate addiction to the macabre.” -- Salon, “The Science of Rubbernecking”

I’m watching someone spiral out of control on social media.

I’m rubbernecking a human life.

She’s my age. We went to school to
gether, more or less. I didn’t know her very well in high school, but I knew the crowd she hung with. The words “troubled,” “wild,” “out of control” were often used by those of us who were “more boring,” or “gutless,” or “wiser,” or whatever we were that they weren’t. They were doing drugs in high school that I never even saw with my own eyes until late into my college life. If you added up all the illicit substances I’ve seen with my own eyes, it wouldn’t add up to a single fun weekend for these folks.

I met her when she came back to town five or six years ago for her high school reunion, but we only interacted because we were sort of catching up with the same people. When she asked to “friend” me on Facebook, I thought nothing of it and accepted. Little did I realize I had accepted her invitation to witness the drug-addled soap opera that is her libidinous and indiscreet lifestyle.

When she wasn’t showing up in my “stream” with a selfie in some unusually bare state of dress, she was writing posts crying for help about how suicidal she might or might not be in any given minute.

I really ought to have unfriended her. I know I should have. Of course I should have. But. For some reason, I pictured myself receiving notice, sometime down the timeline, that she’d killed herself, and I pictured myself feeling as if by unfriending her on FB, I had contributed to a lethal dose of social media apathy from her “friends” and acquaintances. Of course this excuse is illogical, because if she were to have killed herself while I was watching happen on FB, I would arguably be more culpable. (And yes, I’m also painfully aware of how self-absorbed my thinking on all of this is.)

Inevitably, her Facebook account got suspended. Then suspended again. And finally she was booted off Facebook altogether. To the surprise of exactly no one. Because Facebook isn’t really interested in people who post pictures of sex acts and drug use if anyone complains about it.

Soon after, she started following me on Instagram, which became her new hangout once untethered from Facebook. I chose to “follow her back.” My choice. I have elected to watch someone I barely know quite possibly dissolve into nothingness. I have chosen to witness the train wreck of her life play out, one square picture at a time, until the pictures simply stop showing up.

In some 70 pictures over the course of the last two months, most of her pictures cover one of the following topics:
  • selfies in a state of undress,
  • harsh and blurry pictures of nature,
  • still-lifes of drugs (sometimes prescription-based) and drinks, 
  • pics with friends,
  • vids or pics of her shooting semi-automatic weaponry or throwing knives in her basement,
  • pics of her while in the midst of erotic strangulation with her partner.
Nothing about her nudity excites or appeals to me. Every picture is like a scene from a Nine Inch Nails video, the opening credits to a horror film.

Her existence, in almost every way possible, is the polar opposite of my life and lifestyle. Hers is an alternate universe where people search for orgasms via pain, seek euphoria inside plastic bottles or white powders, or find pleasure in fantasies involving deadly weapons. Hers seems to be a Bizarro world where “family” is a nightmare word, where “children” are casualties to be avoided, where loneliness is a darkness so pitch and constant that one can only find respite by lighting violent and fast-burning matches.

What I can’t decide is whether my judgment of her life is based on my own confined existence. Do I assume she’s bound to overdose or kill herself in the very near future simply because I can’t imagine being happy living how she’s living… or because she’s all but said it herself? Does she claim to be suicidal because that’s one more of her erotic fixations and psychological obsessions -- like firing off machine guns, doing cocaine, and reaching orgasm while choking -- or because she regularly sees no point to life?

And the only real conclusion I can reach is: I don’t know.

I have three choices. Two if we’re being really honest, because confronting someone I barely know but who is most decidedly in a different place psychologically would be akin to trying to diffuse a nuclear bomb just because I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I can watch the train as it barrels down the track, or I can turn away and forget it exists until or unless it wrecks into something or someone I know or falls off a broken-down bridge. Neither choice is necessarily more right or wrong; they are only Rorschach tests into our own minds.


G. B. Miller said...

So have we decided to watch this thing through to the bitter end?

Daisy said...

I'm pretty sure she's back on FB. Not that I'm looking.

Robert Berman said...

"Everybody loves a melodrama
And the scandal of a lie." - Indigo Girls

For some reason, we do seem drawn to tragedy. I had to unfriend a couple of acquaintances on Facebook because their sincere racism was too painful to witness.

Sampson Greenovich said...

In today's world we are all becoming more politically acceptable. I think that education is to blame. Once we understand old ideas are done away with.