Over the last three weeks, I have recruited my techie uncle in helping me conquer the obstacles of love, life, and hard drive space. They are all, surprisingly, very similar.
First, he gifted me an external hard drive. He shipped it to me with Amazon Prime. It is cute, small, and black.
Well, actually, “first” was him looking at my MacBook Air desktop and mumbling, “This is a mess.”
For the three weeks since we have been going back and forth, texting links to online chat rooms about Camera Roll, exporting my iPhoto Library to Flickr (which I once thought to be a website only for seventh grade aspiring photographers with DSLRs), exporting the internal hard drive to the external hard drive via Time Machine, exporting the iPhoto Library to the external hard drive via copy and paste (an all-time favorite way of moving things around), and, now, deleting the photos from my iPhoto Library, uploading the photos currently on my iPhone to my iPhoto Library, and updating all of the software on my computer, which will then enable me to update the software on my iPhone.
And I might have even missed a step. (Uncle Rich – did I miss a step?)
My greatest concern in this process was not the moment when “Backup to Flickr for iPhoto” crashed, as traumatizing as it was. It’s that I can’t fit my life into a shitload of gigabytes.
Augustus Gloop dove into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river because the rest of the chocolate at his fingertips, even in a candy factory, was not enough for him. I, like Augustus, was given a taste of something good in the form of last year’s MacBook Air and have instead taken on the task of claiming an entire body of storage space – not as good as chocolate – for my own.
My life is waterfalling into external hard drives and evaporating into cumulonimbus ‘clouds.’
But who has the right to declare the amount of storage space, which exists god-knows-where, that I should receive? Should my laptop and my 32GB iPhone be enough? Or do I have the right, like Augustus Gloop, to expand my girth?
“It’s not you, it’s me,” I’ll whisper into my MacBook’s elusive speaker as I grieve for my gluttony and overflowing storage needs. Or, perhaps, things should be different. Maybe my laptop, serving as my diary and gate to Google (all I need in this life of sin), should cower in the corner. “I’m so sorry,” it will plea, “for tricking you into thinking we’re BFFs without warning you of the limits to our love.”
Is there a guilt we should feel when we overflow?
Having my photos from the last six years at my fingertips, in a place like iPhoto or on my camera roll, is incomparably comforting in comparison to having them copied on my external hard drive or onto Flickr or anywhere else, really. And deleting things from their original location makes those things seem inaccessible, though my brand new hard drive, as sleek and black as a Kim Kardashian skirt set, is just a USB cable away. Don’t worry, Hannah, that one candid photo of you getting dressed in East Hampton on Valentine’s Day in 2009 is closer than you’d think.
It’s confusing to keep track of yourself when you’re in so many places. I don’t like to think that I can be copied and reproduced with a three-hour loading period. I don’t like to think that I can exist in thin-air. Can someone point me to this cloud you’re talking about? And can I dive into it like my dear friend Augustus once did?
“Eventually the earth will fall into the sun and even Flickr won’t help,” my uncle texted me at 7:02pm on January 31st.
I have a fish.
This is a secret I’ve been keeping for almost two months. Well, it’s kind of a secret, and I think it’s almost been two months. It must make me a terrible mother if I don’t remember my fish’s ‘birthday.’ I’m putting ‘birthday’ in quotes because my fish obviously was not born the day I got him.
When I came home from college for the first time, I walked into my dining room and saw eight – I kid you not, eight – separate fish bowls, each with its own beta fish inside. Some people’s parents replace them with a dog, or a fun apartment in the city, or a new book club and social life. Maybe even with a new flat screen TV. My parents replaced me with eight beta fish.
Aside from my two dogs, fish and hermit crabs are the only pets I grew up with. For some reason, my brothers’ hermit crabs always lived like normal hermit crabs do and mine died after a week, MAX. I eventually became too frustrated with whatever opposite of a green thumb for tending hermit crabs I had and told my parents they no longer had to get me replacements for the goners.
The fish, on the other hand, were always taken care of by my parents. While I was encouraged to walk the dog and face my fear of its shit, I was never asked to feed the fish nor was I bothered to clean its bowl. At Thanksgiving, I was telling my twelve-year-old cousin about my fish and how it’s a whole new responsibility for me. She told me that she feeds and cleans her own fish, and my uncle insisted that I was privileged and spoiled.
Two months ago, I stumbled across a guy selling bonsai, cactus, and beta fish (all twenty-something-proof responsibilities) under a little tent. This is not as strange as it sounds. I was having a rough week, maybe a rough month – who can even keep track anymore – and decided it would be really great for me to have a fish. I felt like it was the kind of thing that I would have done if I were a character on a TV show. Even if the fish didn’t solve my problems, it would be funny if I had a glimmer of hope that it would. And to tell you the truth, I think I kind of did.
I chose the fish that I felt spoke to me the most. He is blue, I’ve used gender stereotypes to declare that he is a boy, and he has beautiful bright magenta rocks in his little glass bowl. The blue and the magenta complement each other really well. I named him Ziggy (Ziggy Stardust in full, because he looks so darn jazzy) and put him on my desk because I was instructed not to keep him in sunlight.
I really like Ziggy. I talk to him when I come home and he dances when I play fun music. And that detail is not one I’ve added just to suit the plot of my mental TV show.
I had Ziggy for about a week when my best friend came over and realized I had a fish, to which she asked, “When did you get a fish…?” and to which I said, “Um, last week I think?” This is when I realized I hadn’t told a soul about Ziggy.
This is strange, because I tell everyone everything. I’m the kind of girl who goes to her mom for boy advice, yet I unintentionally withheld the milestone moment in which I had my very own fish for the very first time. And then I realized things were even weirder than I’d imagined: I hadn’t Instagrammed Ziggy a birth announcement, I didn’t Snapchat or Snapstory him, I didn’t mupload him to Facebook, and while my roommate and I spoke about a family photo, I never was aggressive enough to make it happen. It wasn’t that I had kept Ziggy a secret, but it was that for the first time in a long time, I hadn’t indulgently overshared something that had oversharing potential.
When my friends asked me why I didn’t tell them I got a fish, I told them I simply didn’t think of it. I didn’t consciously keep Ziggy to myself in protest of my digital identity. I really just kind of forgot.
Let’s be real – getting a fish is a great posting opportunity. Ziggy’s sapphire scales in contrast with the rocks in his bowl have infinite VSCOcam possiblities. Part of the incentive to get a fish today could justifiably be ‘for the story.’ You’re much more inclined to do something, like order a 2,000-calorie brunch, if you imagine the end goal not as a food coma, but as 200 likes.
My natural inclination is to say that we exploit the little things. But then I reconsider the fact that your digital you is really you, and is not another you or a different you, so ‘exploit’ might not be the perfect word. If I get a fish, and no one likes my pic of it, did I really get a fish at all? It depends how you classify ‘getting a fish.’ If you got a fish, but it bothers you that no one else knows or cares, then you probably feel fishless. You probably have a fishy feeling about your fish.
At the end of the day, I believe that this is why Ziggy likes me so much. I think Ziggy really feels loved, and it is partially because we have a special bond that stays in the bedroom (as opposed to being on an iPhone screen) and partially because I overfeed him. Ziggy and I get along so well because we’d both choose the food coma over the likes any day.
Your college friends are your soul mates because they are the first friends you make on your own, says my mom. She says this in contrast to the way you make friends when you’re little — parents arrange playdates and decide whose house you’ll go to and what type of pizza you’ll order for lunch. Quickly and often, the moms become friends and the daughters become closer. Before you know it you’re all bound to each other like a familial PB&J.
Well, Mommy dearest, I beg to differ. The first friends I really made on my own were on Facebook. I decided to press that ‘add friend’ button. I was the one to take the plunge with the girl who was a friend of a friend but not a real friend, if you know what I mean. I am the reason that a mutual girl crush became a real-life romance. You can thank me for giving you the means to know my name when you approach me at a party. Mama, I’m a big girl now.
Still we do, with age, come to select our own friends on our own terms much more than we used to. We are no longer friends with people just because we grew up with them — because childhood and training bras bonded us together. We’re friends with people because we find a reason that makes us want to be. And at the same time, we sometimes find reasons to no longer be friends with the people we used to because we realize that what brought us together was something like the training bra, but now you’re a C and she’s a D and if ya can’t share bras, then what’s really the point? Okay, okay. In all seriousness, we are also learning how to divorce the people we want to, or perhaps the people we need to.
Today, or some day in the last few weeks, I was divorced. Someone divorced me. She wanted to divorce me so badly that she went to my Facebook profile, and she clicked on the button that says “Friends,” and she selected “Unfriend.” The “Unfriend” option is the last one on the drop-down menu, which means that she went through the trouble of reading all the options above it, which takes time and effort, in order to reach her destination. And then when she was asked if she was sure that she wanted to make this a divorce and not a temporal separation, she said yes, yes, let me file those divorce papers goddamnit, and she divorced me for life.
I have childhood friends who I will never not be friends with. I am never going to divorce them, I am never going to unfriend them. Because in real life, that just doesn’t happen. Maybe it happens once in a while, in what we call a ‘falling out,’ but it’s not a divorce. There’s no button that you can press that separates your lives forever. The concept of ‘unfriending’ then — this horribly isolating, exclusionary, and melancholy verb — wasn’t an option. Or it wasn’t a possibility. In real life, we don’t really unfriend, so we’ve created a digital space where we can.
It’s troubling that I’m upset about my recent divorce because that particular marriage wasn’t really strong to begin with. Well, maybe it was strong, but it wasn’t tangible. Let’s be explicit: my ex was my absolute favorite person to Facebook stalk.
“Maybe it’s because you’re so Facebook active,” one of my best friends told me at dinner tonight. What she said was something I already knew. My shameless (okay, my shameful) self-promotion is omnipresent on newsfeeds far and wide. But people tell me they read what I write, so that must mean it’s working. Therefore I can’t entirely stop the shameless/shameful self promotion. And I know she couldn’t have unfriended me because of my muploads, because I really only mupload every few weeks and it’s never more than 50 pictures at a time. Ironically enough, I only realized the possibility of her unfriending me because my newsfeed seemed rather quiet recently. Her incessant muploading generally takes up 60% of what pops up. Suddenly, it was AWOL, which meant she either deleted her Facebook or unfriended me. It was, as you may have figured out, option B.
I was probably annoying to her, and I felt sad. A relationship that didn’t even exist had ended out of my control. But what if she liked me in person and didn’t even know it?!?!? Someone consciously evicted me from her life the way some people do to their childhood friends when they realize all that’s holding them together — much like a Facebook interaction that only exists on two days, your birthday and hers — is the occasional ‘I miss you’ text or a random #TBT.
The more sad I got, the more I thought about feeling sad in this situation where that emotion just didn’t seem to fit. And I knew I wasn’t solely sad at the fact that I’d never have the balls to friend her again, like I did in eighth grade, so my stalking would really end. I felt instead a misplaced disconcertedness.
So, yes, we can all say what hurts the most about being unfriended is the fact that none of us will ever have the balls to friend someone again. What really hurts the most, though, is that ‘friend’ has gone from being a noun to a verb, and it doesn’t happen on your old tee-ball team and it doesn’t happen at a frat party, either. It happens quickly, it ends quickly, and it is a divorce. Hire your lawyers. You never know when the time will come — I can’t say I saw mine coming myself.