For the last few weeks I was Michael Anderson. I stole all my pics from some guy in Australia named Aleksander Vukcevic. Posts filled my page like a list of attributes—my dirt bike, my cat, me on a boat. My bio read, “Eat well. Stay in shape. Die anyway.”
I was in Rachel Darwish’s DMs. The top part of her face was cut off in her profile pic, showing just her toothy smile and dark hair falling onto her shoulders. Her posts were mostly food pics, inspirational quotes, concert pics of Prince, sunsets, and photos of her taken at angles that hide her face. I first slid into her DMs like this:
Is this Rachel the famous ninja warrior?
You found me lol
I’m your biggest fan!
Lucky me!! Lol
OMG I see you like Prince. RIP
Yess gone too soon
Did you know that Prince’s last tweet was “I am transformed”
Nooo…is that true?
We chatted like this for weeks. But banter turned into deep conversations, some lasting all night. Then this morning she messaged:
I’ll be in your ends on Thursday. Wanna meet at Councillor at like 9?
Are you there?
The time on my laptop showed 10:58pm—her last message sent hours ago.
With my finger resting almost weightlessly on my touchpad, I scrolled up through our hundreds of messages. I fiddled with the brass Zippo in my other hand, flicking it open then closed, open then closed. The whiff of lighter fluid lingered in the air. I sucked a final drag from my cigarette, dropped the butt into an empty wine bottle by my feet, and I decided never to be Michael again.
The police sirens from outside invaded my apartment. Michael, who justified me, who gave me the satisfaction of being someone, was gone from me, freed from the prison of my mind to live online in a way that my flesh and blood could never do. I dragged my finger tip across the touchpad, logged out of Instagram, and the bitter taste of my unreality returned to me. All those city sounds—motors revving, dump trucks backing up, people yelling—were back again.
I raised another cigarette to my mouth, almost mechanically, and exhaled stale smoke that pushed a long dusty cobweb hanging aimlessly from the ceiling. My apartment was small and almost bare of furniture. Ahead of me was the kitchen. Beside the kitchen stretched a narrow hallway leading to two bedrooms and a tiny washroom.
For the longest time I didn’t know there was a name for my sort of addiction. Now, I know it’s called "catfishing”. According to UrbanDictionary.com, the definition of “catfish” is:
A fake or stolen online identity created or used for the purpose of beginning a deceptive online relationship.
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Over the years I've created so many profiles that I don't remember all of them. There was John Carroll, a graffiti artist. Steven Miller, a musician who played the banjo and ukulele. Maurice, a paramedic. Jeff, a web developer. I recognized myself more in these profiles and less in myself, if it's true that I'm somebody at all.
Each profile had a girl. The girls varied, from chatty to shy, from young to mature, from posting every day to almost never. Most of them lived outside Canada, but Rachel was from Toronto and another was from Montreal.
My foot fell numb. I stood up and stretched, tippy toeing and wiggling my toes until feeling came back. Sitting down, I leaned closer to my laptop on the coffee table, and fought the temptation to fill myself with another name—another profile. I didn't know how else to connect with anyone. I had no real relationships in the outside world, not including my therapist or the clerk at the corner store where I buy smokes. Maybe if I had a real job I’d have friends. But who needs a job when you have crypto?
Listening to the thumping of my neighbor's footsteps above, I tried in vain to remember the last time I left my apartment and into the world where things happen.
I closed my browser and my desktop background image stared back at me—my Psychedelics Anonymous Genesis #2945—an apt reflection of my true self, a figure sitting in shadow, faceless, justified only by a screen. I zoomed into the image and studied the millions of pixels forming this profile that encapsulated me. But there was no one behind its features. There was just a slight coldness—a feeling of emptiness. That feeling was the only indication I existed, and I needed more than that. I needed to be someone.
ur not alone : )
Continued on Posted on March 14