Tweaking for Twitter? How to Get Help Now!

“I would say I issued about 1,000 tweets per day,” John tells me, his face gaunt and his fingers twitching like he really needs to hit some keys. I’m sitting in the Life, Media, and Order (LMAO) Rehabilitation Center in Laguna Hills. Founded just six months ago by Bernie and Shannon O’Heath, the clinic has grown from a shack in the woods with no electricity and no bathroom (or maybe, the whole forest was the bathroom, if you think about it) to a small collection of log cabins.

They organize activities for the patients, including hikes and trips to the beach; anything to occupy them as they experience withdrawal from their computers. I had to check my mobile phone in at the door, as last month they had an incident when a patient broke a man’s hand trying to wrestle a phone from him.

I nod my head and jot the figure down on my notepad — no recorders allowed either. I ponder the 1,000 tweets that John mentioned earlier. I don’t think I could ever have that many pithy little things to say in my lifetime — not unless I tweeted about every time I went to the bathroom, in detail. My thoughts are interrupted by John’s roommate Allan exclaiming “Like!” His addiction? “Liking” things on Facebook. I look at him, sitting in the corner of the room staring at the wall. The attention makes him nervous. “This wall is boring, nothing on it,” he mutters. I don’t know what to say to that so I return to John, who’s staring off into space expectantly.

“So was that rock bottom for you?” I softly ask.

“I would say that me tweeting like that … no, that was not the worst thing. I was just tweeting the things normal people tweet such as ‘This sandwich is good’ or ‘Shit, ran.”  He just pauses and stares at me momentarily. I’m thinking it might be withdrawal, but then I remember something one of the nurses told me: the poor bloke can only speak 140 characters at a time, a side-effect of making Twitter his primary method of communication. “‘Shit, ran out of toilet paper, Nancy, if you read this, bring me some ASAP’ ” he continues.

“Speaking of your wife, did she put you in rehab?” I ask.

“We separated. You see, it became so that I wouldn’t talk to her, only communicated through Twitter.”

“Oh, so she left you because of that, I’m sorry to hear that.”

He cracks a smile for the first time. “No, I left her. She never Tweeted back. I found it offensive. How can you have a marriage when people don’t communicate?”

Twitter and Facebook addictions caused approximately 53 percent of all divorces in 2009, the Wittgenstein Temple of the Family (WTF) estimates. Margaret Burke, a spokesperson for the institute, says: “Not talking to each other is one issue. Another thing is that these sites, given the way people use them, let people know far too much about one another. When it’s about a friend, you can just laugh it off. When it comes to a spouse …  well, it can get trying. For example, many marriages end because it seems like one spouse is flirting with other people on Facebook. Even the occasional ‘like’ is enough to raise the suspicions of some people.” Surely that is an exaggeration? “In most marriages, communication typically breaks down after the first two or three years. And when you spend so much time with someone, you start to find whatever quirky little half-funny things they have to say downright annoying … Facebook and Twitter are good outlets for people who don’t get enough validation from their spouses, is basically what I am trying to say. And yes, some people are so lonely that they get attracted to people who simply click ‘like’ for what they have to say.”

John used to be a high school teacher and basketball coach whose job permitted him little time to socialize. But when he put things on Facebook and Twitter, people responded. He kept up with his friends that way. And he ended up in LMAO. As useful as these sites claim to be, they can’t replace human to human interaction. Or so I ‘like’ to think.