Tharp On: My Cyber Rep

[su_heading size=”20″]The Internet is the modern day window to the world. It also shines a light on blackouts from the previous night.[/su_heading]
Too many times it’s gone down like this:

I come to, steaming. The day’s light slices through the window and stabs the back of my eyes. My stomach gurgles and groans as I sit up in bed, trying to figure out just where the hell I am. Home … of course. I stand, wobbly on my feet, catching myself on the wall as I stagger toward the kitchen. My lips are cracked and my mouth is a desert wasteland. Water. STAT. My ears hiss and my bones ache and my head feels like something peed in it. Welcome to another hangover in Busan.

I reach in the refrigerator, snatch the cheap plastic bottle, and frantically unscrew the cap. I briefly search for a cup before aborting the mission and electing to chug. I exhale in deep satisfaction as I feel the cool liquid soothe my desiccated insides.Much better.I take another swig.Things aren’t so bad now, are they?

Spirits buoyed, I scan the room. My jeans are crumpled on the floor with the wallet stuffed inside the back pocket; the end of the still-looped belt sticks out like a dead dog’s tongue. A sad, errant shoe lies on its side next to the bathroom, far from the jumble of its companions near the front door. My cat sits on a chair and stares at me with hard, contemptuous eyes, like she can discern the waves of guilt radiating from my pores. I then glance toward my desk, with its piles of books, papers and pens and my computer monitor sitting on top.The monitor. The glowing screen. I feel my blood go cold and my stomach drop.

Oh dear. What did I write on Facebook last night?

*   *   *

I am mouthy. I am mouthy when I’m sober and even mouthier when I’m drunk. I have always been an opinionated bastard, even as a little kid. The deeply held conviction that I am right most of the time has only increased with age, and – surprise surprise – booze tends to amplify it. It expands it, warps it, pounds it out and transforms it into burning, magnesium-hot, righteous indignation.

This is fine when at the pub arguing with friends, which is one of my favorite pastimes. We sit around guzzling beer and screaming at each other about the existence of God, US foreign policy in Latin America in the 1980s, or whether or not Phoebe Cates is still bangable today. Things may get heated, but it ends there. Words are spat and spoken and then evaporate into the air. Most of us will remember little of what has been said, and better yet, there’s no incriminating evidence.

But the Internet is different. It’s a giant tape recorder. Everything you write stays there until you go back and press delete. And even though you can don your blanket-of-shame attempt to wipe away your cyber graffiti the day after an obnoxious whiskey-fueled rant, it can never truly be erased. Your words are forever stored in the invisible bowels of the Net, and perhaps more importantly, the eyes of all of those sober people who read them.

Mea culpa:I am guilty of raging at the world over the Internet. You could say I’ve become notorious for it, and Facebook is the venue of choice. Before the rise of social media, I would just get drunk and bellow away at my personal blog. The audience was much smaller because the only ones who came were people actually interested in what I had to say. Now things are different: I can vomit my ire into the retinas of hundreds, even thousands of people at a time, most of whom sat down with no intention of specifically reading my words. I can horrify whole swaths of folks with one easy click of the mouse.

No one is immune. I’ve gone atomic on friends and family. I’ve cursed the name of my alma mater. I’ve waged war against dumb tea partyers, lame Seattle liberals, dopey expat newbies, conspiracy theory nutbars, people who live in Daegu, big game hunters, K-pop, white dreadheads, Christians, Muslims, Canadians, Europeans, Phish fans, the Welsh, awful ‘video bloggers,’ flip-flop wearers, rednecks, mayo eaters, people who unfriend me on Facebook and then keep commenting on my wall, this very magazine, and once, for five hours, I engaged what seemed to be the whole state of Idaho in bloody, hand-to-hand cyber combat.

For better or for worse, this has become my online reputation. There is little I can do to change this, despite the fact that there are companies out there today designed for the sole purpose of rehabilitating one’s cyber rep. But I’m fine with that. I’ve made my bed and I am more than happy to get drunk and pass out in it. After all, I have no desire to return to America and try to get that plum corporate gig, where only the boring and unsullied are allowed through the gate. I’ll continue to fight the fight, online and off.

That said, I have little desire to set fire to Facebook anymore. I would be very happy to never wake up to that sinking feeling of horror again. Perhaps there are ways to guarantee this. Have you heard of this device that they put on the ignitions of DUI offenders’ cars back home? Each time they wish to drive, they’re required to breathe into it. If any booze is detected, the car won’t start.

I think I need one of those for my computer.

You can get Chris Tharp’s book Dispatches from the Peninsula: Six Years in South Koreaon Amazon or

Illustration by Michael Roy. You can see more of his work  here.

Tharp’s Blog: Homely Planet

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