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500 'friends' later, a social life is born

I used to go to school, I used to "have a life," I used to be a contributing member of this dull, lifeless place you fools call society.

Then I discovered Facebook.

When I signed up a year ago, I felt offended to have my entire being reduced to a list of personal information that would fit on a sheet of paper. But then I thought about it, and the truth came to me.

Really, what are people but the sum of a birthday, relationship status, religious belief, series of activities and personal interests, and a profile picture? If there's ever been anything more to man -- soul, character, personality -- evolution phased it out generations ago, along with the tail and 11th finger.

The Facebook community gives me everything the "real world" ever did, and more. Life getting me down? Sven Jonssky from Sweden is there to give me comfort and assurance. In need of a friend? Tom Bigs -- a bearded 57-year-old man living in the Lake-Park Audubon Area -- is always eager to chat with me, discuss my innermost personal feelings and insecurities. Feeling playful? Melinda Gondorson from Russia plays a mean game of online chess or backgammon.

These people -- and the 500 others just like them -- are my friends. They share my victories and downfalls, they know me and I know them better than we know ourselves, they complete me. People question the depth of our online friendships -- say we collect Facebook "friends" like merit badges, and will "friend" someone for no reason beyond sharing a middle name.

But their criticism is rooted in jealousy. They look at their failing "real-life" friendships and romances, and then at our successful, happy online ones, and only envy what they cannot understand.

While it is true that my online girlfriend -- a 27-year old named Ophelia from Denmark -- and I have never met, our relationship is steadfast, built on sincere love and protection for each other. Forget chastity -- we've chosen to save meeting each other for marriage. That way, it'll be all the more special when our eyes first meet.

True, it's possible that Ophelia is a figment of someone's imagination -- that her beauteous profile picture is a composite of the best features of 10 faces. It could be that her brother has been conducting our online chats for the past year and a half. But there has a certain amount of trust in every relationship, doesn't there?

It's just that in ours, the basis of our trust is in the assumption that we both exist. And please don't mention to her that I don't have a trust fund or drive a Lexus.

So now I've discovered that one need not travel through a black hole to discover an alternate universe, one friendlier and easier to succeed in than our own. It's as close as my bedroom, and it exists on a computer screen.

The piles of socks and dirty underwear scattered around me mean nothing -- they are only relics of the world I've left behind. Nor does the fact that I haven't showered in three days, and only emerge from the cavernous depths of my dimly-lit bedroom once a week to restore my supply of Doritos and Mountain Dew. I have everything I need.

"Carpe diem" they all tell me, but my flawed, worldly friends can't hope to realize the futility of their pleas for my reemergence into planet Earth. I can only smile and wave at my pitiful companions, tethered to the stern realities of the "real world" on which they insist on living, as I drift higher and higher into the Facebook dimension like a balloon, finally happy, finally free.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.