by Greg Oguss & Richard Wink
When we deleted our Twitter accounts last week to take a break from the tweeting-blogging-yelping rat race, we were in good company. The ubiquitous Miley Cyrus became slightly less so that same week by deleting her own account. Her father Billy Ray (a.k.a. @AchyBreakyDad) quickly fired off an “OMGWTF??!” tweet at Miley’s now-defunct account, understandably concerned with how his daughter’s shunning of the limelight would impact the family’s global domination of the economy’s most recession-proof sector, celebrity-gossip-whoring. But our sympathies go out to Miley because 1) we do not have a financial interest in her unfortunately and 2) she is obviously suffering from a tragic new affliction, chronic Social-Networker Fatigue.
SNF—also referred to as Lodwick’s Syndrome after Jacob Lodwick who coined the term “fameball” and v-logged every twist and turn of his ill-fated relationship with fellow micro-celeb Julia Allison before quitting the internet in a huff—is a mass of shifting symptoms with no effective treatments as yet, posing a special challenge for medical professionals. Doctors have identified several common indicators of the disease, including “text thumb” (an injury frequently compounded by Web-porn-fueled cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and “spontaneous lolspeak,” where sufferers are prone to spouting involuntary Tourette’s-like ejaculations of common internet acronyms.
The condition has affected a large cross-section of society. Researchers at the Harvard Center for the Study of Teh Lulz estimate that SNF afflicts between 10% and 20% of American teenagers and an even larger percentage of hipsters. In the U.K. , the social costs have been enormous. There has been a disturbing rise in the “tardy tweeter” phenomenon, wherein tweets are the cause of commuters missing train stops on their way in to the office. A devastating spiral effect on the economy has resulted as managers with itchy trigger-fingers have taken to firing employees for persistent lateness via Facebook status updates. It’s a recession, nobody is secure.
The potentially deadly intersection of SNF and one of the Web’s more popular pastimes, celebrity-stalking, also has authorities concerned. Taking advantage of Twitter’s “Follow Friday” and Google’s street-view feature, would-be stalkers have begun obsessively monitoring the Internet as a means of plotting their way into the lives of their idols. Tragically, @beanhead’s tweet about spotting Rolf Harris eating breakfast at the Savoy Hotel led to the death-by-asphyxiation of one Ainsley Mubarak, who became trapped inside a hotel dining cart where he had hidden in the hopes that Harris would return to dine the next day. Harris’s eloquent eulogy at Mubarak’s funeral helped turn the national spotlight on the dangers of SNF.
More mundane efforts to combat the disease include a ban on the use of digital cameras and camera-phones in British pubs due to the widespread fear that too many people are exaggerating their drunken carousing on their Facebook profiles. Status updates of “Got hammered last night, had ten pints. lolz” have rarely corresponded with observed levels of bar-imbibing, leading many Brits to worry about the resulting effects on their cherished reputation as the world’s preeminent drunken louts.
Experts are divided on the most effective treatments for SNF. Dr. Candide Zidane of Bristol University counsels chronic sufferers to go for old-fashioned remedies. She encourages addicts of dating sites such as OK Cupid and Match.com to go back to basics and begin posting lonely hearts ads in local newspapers to get over their withdrawal symptoms. Former Facebook users are advised to write ‘status updates’ in moleskin diaries and share them with workmates over coffee at break-time. A more radical approach to treatment has been put forward by Ariel Sim, chief executive of the Progressive Colony of Luddites. Sim calls upon sufferers to smash their PCs and smartphones in a “radical re-booting of the senses.”
To this point, suggestions from both Zidane and Sim have been roundly ignored after failing to become trending topics on Twitter. Experts say this suggests an even more troubling phenomenon. For the majority of SNF sufferers, deleting a profile does not sever the connection. They simply come back and lurk, watching the world through a partially concealed Firefox browser window. In this case, voluntary hypnosis to remove memory of all passwords is recommended. If withdrawal symptoms are not aggressively treated, even more egregious Web misbehavior can result, such as posting rap videos on YouTube about why you deleted your profile.