Life had been sweet on the planet Lollipop. Barney Bracken, a young fortyish married man with children, had been living his life according to five simple rules: 1) don’t become addicted to alcohol; 2) don’t become addicted to mood-altering drugs; 3) have a decent job that pays a good living; 4) cultivate real friends; and 5) do whatever it takes to keep your family speaking with you.
Over the past year, he had been introduced to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There were other social media sites, but these were his favourites. At first, they made his life even better.
He loved composing short amusing messages to send out to the world. Something like, “The Chimney Repair and Wildlife Removal company showed up at our party and we don’t have a fireplace. Anybody got bail money?”
There were the online games. Under trending topics, when he was asked to submit one-letter-off-movie-titles, his offerings were “Paws”, “Goonstruck” and “Curse of the Dummy’s Tomb.” For my-last-tweet-on-earth he went with what Dracula might have said in some confusion and naïve innocence, “So what’s with the wooden stake and crucifix, Herr Helsing?” He cracked himself up and hoped that his new buddies shared in the enjoyment.
His first glimmer that something might be going wrong was when he responded, “I absolutely agree, number 3,798” to the statement made by one of his new followers, “I hate it when people are on these sites only to pump up their friend counts.” Then there was the day when he was startled into awareness that he was keypunching on his laptop while sitting on the pot. Submitting messages to social media sites any time of the day or night over his i-phone was becoming a hazard.
He came to realize that he was fixated and obsessed. He was addicted to staying in touch with individuals in far-away places that seemed nice enough but with whom he shared no common background. If he didn’t cut down on his social media connections at work, he was sure to be fired. His contacts with his own family and dear old friends were becoming less and less. He was breaking several of his rules.
He wasn’t the only one in trouble. Change was seeping in over the e-wires. Lots of people seemed to be losing control. He began to notice that random rants were appearing on walls and message boards. Some individuals with large number counts were even exhorting their followers to gang up against others. Kibitzing and normal kidding around could quickly turn precarious.
Blocking offensive individuals was one recourse, but clearly a lot of people needed help. What to do? Barney was a serious student of human nature. He swore off computers for a week and gave the matter a great deal of thought. He needed the perspective that came with going “cold turkey.”
There was only one answer. What had started out as an electronic version of ham radio needed to evolve into something much more – global group therapy. But who would lead the way. Was Barney the man for the job? Leadership had to come from somewhere.
This is the folklore behind the founding of CA which is the in-the-clouds version of AA. For the first time in a week, Mr. Bracken sat down at the computer keyboard and stared at the text box. For a few seconds, he paused to compose himself. Then, with the most serious intent he had ever mustered, he typed these fateful and life-altering words, “Hi, my name is Barney and I’m a cyberholic.”