News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 23, 2010

HUGHES NEWS AND VIEWS: Some addictions don't turn out so bad

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When allowed to spiral out of control, addictions can affect people from all walks of life.

They can end lives, destroy marriages and turn normally decent human beings into shells of their former selves.

When I was battling a rare form of abdominal cancer and post-surgery complications for most of 2009 and early 2010 (read the April 4 and April 9 versions of “Hughes, News & Views” for more details), I saw potential for addictions to influence my life.

One of my temporary favorites was the high-powered, intravenous medicine I needed to manage my pain, which reached intense levels at various times during my ordeal.

Although I appreciated the short-term benefits of this medical miracle, I did not develop an addiction. In other words, when my pain dropped to reasonable levels, I reluctantly accepted the fact that I would be cut off from this medicine and it would not be going home with me.

There were other medicinal necessities that came and went during my 13 1/2 months of misery, but I did not become addicted to any of them.

I did try something new in December, however, to help pass the time when I was bored at home, lacking energy, off work, and preparing for another significant surgery in January.

It seemed harmless at the time. But to this day, even though I’ve been back to work and joined two fitness clubs since March 29, I’m still unable to kick the habit.

That habit — oh I’m sooooo ashamed — is Facebook.

There, I said it.

If you’ve joined Facebook and spent hours a day sending out friend requests, accepting friend requests, perusing status updates of existing friends and becoming a “fan” of various lifestyles, athletes, musical groups or activities (some worthwhile and some ridiculous), you know what I mean.

It’s addictive.

(You didn’t think I was going to write a serious column about serious addictions, did you?)

Anyway, I’ve amassed 930-plus “Facebook friends” in four months, although I don’t really know 100-200 of them. That’s because I made a few dozen friend requests to Facebook users who have mutual friends and because other users requested my friendship for the same reason.

I’ve also had friend requests accepted by celebrities and borderline celebrities I’ve never met in person or never interviewed over the phone. Examples included Mike Tyson, Kato Kaelin, Stacy Keibler, Baron Von Raschke, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t welcomed every friend request with open arms. I’ve rejected a few when there appeared to be zero connection between me and that person.

Overall, though, Facebook has turned into a fun addiction. It’s allowed me to reconnect with so many former friends and acquaintances I never thought I’d hear from again, including several 1970s high school classmates from Terre Haute South.

Apparently I’m not the only person who thinks Facebook is innocent Internet fun.

According to statistics issued by the free Web site (hopefully it will stay that way), it has more than 400 million active users around the world. The average Facebook user has 130 “friends” and creates 70 pieces of content each month.

That content, which often comes in the form of status updates on each user’s profile page, can range from “I’m picking my nose today” to a life-altering message about a sick family member. In terms of real-life importance, most content falls somewhere in between.

One of my favorite Facebook groups was created recently by longtime co-worker and friend Tom James as a tribute to the 1978-79 Indiana State men’s basketball team. As of Friday evening, the group had lured in roughly 420 members, including two ISU players (Leroy Staley and Bob Ritter), one student trainer (Rick Shaw), one player’s wife (Kathy Miley) and several devoted fans (including wild-man Jon Holtman, who now lives in Colorado) from the ’78-79 team.

T.J. hopes Larry Bird will join the group or at least look at the group’s profile page someday, although we’re thinking Larry probably isn’t much of a Facebooker.

I’ve also taken interest in a Facebook group that one of my newfound friends created this month. It’s called “Terre Haute needs a night Club with a big Dance Floor! :)” and it has quickly grown to more than 200 members.

Facebook offers countless fan pages. One of my favorites — “I hate it when you’re with MC Hammer and he doesn’t let you touch anything” — never fails to make me laugh. I don’t even know how this page originated, but does it matter?

I’ve also joined several Indianapolis Colts-related Facebook pages, as well as several that support local restaurants, bands and radio stations and some that support cancer research and humane societies. The Tribune-Star and Tribune-Star Sports operate separate fan pages too.

In addition, Facebook enabled me to post 71 photos within a few days after a March get-together, which attracted more than 120 people, at a Terre Haute bar/restaurant.

Naturally, Facebook isn’t for everybody.

If you’re a super-busy CEO or bank president, you probably don’t have time for it. But when you’re laid up in a hospital bed or at home with a serious health condition, which was my situation a few months ago, Facebook can come in handy.

Hey, at least I wasn’t drinking meth.

Now someone talk me out of trying Twitter because I definitely don’t have time for two addictions.



David Hughes can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at david.hughes@tribstar.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.