It's not easy to admit this, but I'm a junkie. Have been for awhile. The last 4 years, since having my first kid, it's been pretty bad. Just when I decide I have the courage to quit, I get another add from some pushy but well-meaning Facebook friend and I'm dragged back down into the endless time-suck of another Facebook mom group.
My newsfeed is littered with women from across the globe; boasting about their breast pumping conquests, inquiring about potty training, and posting pics of mystery baby rashes. Mostly, it's harmless noise. I can mindlessly scroll past or stop briefly to share a moment of commiseration with my sisters in the trenches of mommy-hood. Occasionally, some unsuspecting new mom innocently inquires about vaccinations which undoubtedly erupts into a giant misinformation-fest and digresses quickly into infantile name-calling and the verbal equivalent of woman-on-woman violence. Turns out, there are plenty of 'trigger' topics out there that flip the crazy switch the otherwise mild-mannered human beings and part of me can't stand to look away from the virtual hair-pulling that ensues when one pops up. I don't typically engage in the madness, but I have zero qualms with grabbing a bag of popcorn with which to enjoy the show. Scoot over Real Housewives, I've got all the drama I need when a gang of hormonal strangers duke it out over the merits/dangers of Crying it Out.
So when I got a message from a friend politely asking if I cared to join another moms group, I almost did the right thing and said 'no.' But I couldn't help myself. This one was supposed to be different. It discourages unnecessary acronym use (so, fewer SAHMs and FTMs tossing around BS about their DH and LOs), has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sanctimommies and anti-vaxxers, and promotes over indulging in 'mommy juice' over Pinterest wins. For the most part, the group has been true to it's promise and remains a pretty happy place, filled with snarky moms commiserating about how shitty it is to parent with a hangover and calling their kids assholes. It was perfect. I didn't think I could love it more.
Then, last weekend happened.
The group's creator and acting 'Admin' popped on in the early hours of Saturday morning to relay the following message:
Intrigued, I clicked on the comments section where I was greeted by several screen shots depicting a totally irate young (former) bar patron who was indeed losing his goddamn mind via Facebook messenger. The messages went on into the very wee hours of the morning and became increasingly threatening and demonstrated an inverse relationship between mounting level of fury and deteriorating believability.
Not far from my house, this fuming millennial was apparently pacing a dark parking lot using his Facebook messenger app to demand his money back from the bar he'd been (by all accounts, rightly) expelled from.
By 6am, he had sent no fewer than two dozen messages in which he threatened to contact the BBB, Angie's List, and Yelp. He promised to write 'thousands of negative reviews' and even set up a whole website devoted solely to bashing the bar. He was a website developer and (ironically?) a bar owner who happened also to be close family friends with the mayor. He promised to be back on Monday accompanied by both the Mayor and the 'Liquor Control Board' to enforce a $10,000 fine upon the establishment, using his iron-clad evidence of underage drinking occurring there. They (the bar) had messed with the wrong guy.
His messages quickly exposed him as self-important, overly entitled, not super-articulate, and totally unglued from reality. It was all the ignorant ugliness of 'Murica rolled into one living-breathing 20-something. The Facebook group (many of whom were up feeding babies or retrieving cups of water for thirsty toddlers) waited with bated breath for him to drop a racial slur or proclaim his undying devotion to Donald Trump (which, to his credit, he never did).
If you listened carefully enough while reading the updates and comments popping up like weeds on the thread throughout the weekend, you could almost hear the salivation of hundreds of sleep-deprived, somewhat slap-happy moms, hungry for more amusement to break up the mundanity of their spit-up covered, Lego-littered lives.
And praise Jesus, our new friend did not disappoint.
By Monday morning, we were all eagerly logging on, hands clasped and eyes wide to see who turned up at this friendly neighborhood pub to doll out the promised retaliation (please let it be the mayor!! Please let it be the mayor!!)
What we found was EVEN BETTER.
Naturally, we were all now totally familiar with the bar-hopping young entrepreneur, thanks to poorly managed privacy settings on his Facebook profile. So it wasn't weird at all when a bunch of us simultaneously discovered he wouldn't make his promised pilgrimage back to the scene of the 'crime' because had instead hopped a flight to LA for a business trip.
This statement sounds innocent enough; and we may have all gone back to our lives at this point if we weren't all so hungry for the universe to provide us with a little more drama.
The thing was...the trip? It just felt fishy, right from the start. Regarding social media, he did what any good millennial would do: post from the airport, snap a few shots upon arrival, bitch a little about navigating an unfamiliar airport...etc, etc. But the details of the trip unfolded like a dejected teenager's wet dream.
First, he was upgraded to (a crazy spacious) business class seat where he met a hot little blonde number who just happened to also be staying at the Ritz Carleton that night. Next, he was greeted at LAX by a fully-stocked luxery limousine and spent the ride to his hotel snapping some really impressive shots of the city. Judging by the food spread pictured, the suite awaiting him at the Ritz appeared to be expecting at least a dozen guests. The whole trip was funded by 'Holleywood' which is where he was headed Monday to meet with Elizabeth Banks to be considered as a candidate to develop the website for the highly anticipated upcoming feature film: Pitch Perfect 3.
At this point, it will come as no surprise to you that it took no more than some very light Googling to begin to chip away at this story. And even less of a surprise that a giant chunk of the group eagerly stepped up to the (totally minimal) challenge. The Facebook thread blew up with screen shots of findins from reverse (and regular) image searches. Every single photo he'd posted was pulled straight from the Internet, even the shot of the local airport terminal. It was madness. The blonde in business class turned out to be some blogger posting about cashing in frequent flier miles for an international flight back in 2014. I'm guessing the poor girl would be a little startled to learn that after hijacking her picture, our young entrepreneur explained away her very obvious wedding ring (after a friend pointed it out) by making her a grieving widow and making it very clear that they'd spent the night together anyways. The meeting clearly was taking place at Paramount studios (given the four photos he posted at the gates, each with a totally different cloud cover and lighting), despite the fact that the IMDb tells us the Pitch Perfect movies are produced by Universal.
The whole charade was pure gold to us moms. With each new post, we became less attentive to our kids or further neglected our job duties. Our otherwise dreary Monday was overcome by a giddy sense of anticipation. How far would this kid take it? What sort of person actually does this sort of thing? Who is he trying to impress? Is it possible he's somehow onto us and the whole thing is meant to send us spinning in circles? (Cuz I would totally love that, mad kudos if that's the case)
By the time he was announcing to his captive audience that he'd landed the deal, we were beside ourselves with giddiness. We couldn't tell if we wanted him to fake fail or win in real life. We were rooting for him, the studio, the blonde...we could not look away.
I was worthless at work. I had to make a very focused effort to keep my nose out of my phone the rest of the day; which included a rare adults night out with my husband and father at a baseball game.
The group collectively exhaled as our new buddy's plane touched down and he announced his arrival after a record breaking 2.5 hour plane trip from LAX to StL. As the week puttered along, we checked in periodically, created a hashtag, and occasionally looked back nostalgically on our time together as collective internet sleuths.
There was both a sense of loss and a sense of relief as our lives moved on, refocused on the minutia of mountains of laundry, bargaining with irrational toddlers, and crawling commutes. We reaquainted ourselves with our children and stared deep into their eyes, wondering if someday they'd be sad or angry enough to create such a wildly elaborate fantasy. We felt gratified as we re-engaged in an honest day of work and a new sense of appreciation for our own solid partnerships and friendships.
Part of me still wants the whole thing to be an elaborate hoax played out for our benefit alone. I know the more likely alternative is much sadder.
The thing about the Internet is that it will provide us with exactly what we need. It allows us a platform to expose our most flattering angles, make our children seem clean, smart, and well-behaved. It gives us a community where we can feel less alone and weird; a place to debate and engage and commiserate. It can be used to create a reality that is much more appealing than where we live in real life. Or, if you're three, it has 24/7 access to Mickey Mouse. It also gives us a little access into someone else's world, and that may not always be so sunny.
I guess it's no wonder we're all a little hooked. And maybe someday, we can all find ourselves at the gates of Paramount Studios, waiting for Elizabeth Banks to give us our big break.