Last month I was hacked by the Russians.
Okay, it wasn’t “the” Russians but rather one Russian. He hacked into my Facebook account, changed my password, assumed my identity, and promptly deleted all of my friends.
It was my very own Election 2016.
When I tried to log in and report the hack, a message popped up telling me there was no account associated with my email. Panicked, I asked my husband, Jason, to bring up his page. He did and we discovered that every photo I’d ever been tagged in had been erased of my name.
I wish I could tell you I handled it well. I wish I could say I was calm and practical and understood that a social media account means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I wish I could say that.
Instead, I lost my mind.
I cried, I yelled, I called my mom, I Google searched for a solution, I tried contacting Facebook, and then I cried some more.
The hack happened while on vacation. Jason and I were driving down the coast of Oregon and California and I spent the entire next day longing to upload photos of massive trees and wide-open ocean.
After all, if I had an experience and didn’t post it on Facebook did it really happen?
I felt like a junkie who couldn’t get her fix. As my withdrawal deepened, I tried to tell myself I didn’t care. Maybe this was my wake up call. Maybe I’d be one of those people who didn’t have a personal Facebook account – like Barack Obama or my dad.
Deep inside my heart, I knew it didn’t matter if old high school friends saw a picture of me eating a photogenic taco or having a particularly good hair day at a museum. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of loss.
Yes, I’d lost more than a thousand connections I’d been building for years. Many of whom I had no way of contacting other than through Facebook. But deeper than that (and much harder to admit) was the feeling I’d lost the “life” I’d built online.
A life that, over the last ten years, I’d been carefully curating. Not the life I’d actually lived but the one I wanted people to see.
The life of a girl who was never in a bad mood, who had never been lonely, and who had definitely never unbuttoned her jeans in the car.
It was fun to be that girl. It was addicting. And more than anything, it was fake.
I took a breath and looked up from my phone. I’d been so focused on trying to recover my account I hadn’t noticed we were starting to drive through Napa.
I’d been on this road before – eleven years ago with my dad who’d taken me to California during my college spring break.
I hadn’t posted a single photo from that trip on Facebook because there was no Facebook.
There was no highly filtered evidence of Dad and I with our wine glasses. No post about the day we drank too much in the morning and spent our time at the last two vineyards just eating the complimentary pretzels. No friend request from the people we met at a house party that had us dancing until two in the morning.
But I remembered it all.
Watching the grape vines fly by, I realized that a part of me was glad those memories were only mine, tucked safely in the back of my heart where no one could comment on them.
I put down my phone and started enjoying the view. I didn’t need social media. I could be happy – maybe even happier – without it. I was free – unshackled from the grip of social media.
The next morning I got an email from Facebook. They’d recovered my account.
Oh thank God, I thought. I couldn’t have lasted another day.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.