Garbo said it best: "I vant to be alone." Good luck with that in today's overconnected world - both for movie stars and ordinary folk.
There may be a slight sliver of hope, however, thanks to a new app that lets people avoid - yes, avoid - their friends at bars, restaurants and other gathering places.
The app - part satire, part yet another anti-social media website - was created as a project by Scott Garner, who's working toward a master's degree in interactive telecommunications at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Lifted from a line in existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre's play, "No Exit," the website is titled "Hell Is Other People." Sartre, who died years before Facebook, had no idea.
The irony - as pointed out in a recent Time Magazine article - is that you must first find your friends on the Web before you can ignore them. Users do this by logging onto a location-based social network such as Foursquare, which shows where your friends are currently lurking.
Foursquare users then log onto the Hell Is Other People's website, which brings up a map that shows their friends' locations, marked by orange dots. It then recommends safe distances from these friends, illustrated by green dots.
Your friends, of course, have to cooperate in all this by checking into the places that you will then assiduously try to avoid. In other words, you have to connect in order to disconnect. Get it?
Little wonder I refuse to open a Facebook account. Still, even I can acknowledge certain circumstances where one might wish to avoid one's friends, such as:
• You drank too much the last time you were with them and are somewhat embarrassed.
• You're with a friend's latest ex.
• Your friend is with your latest ex.
• Your friends are total bores, perhaps because, thanks to Facebook, you already know every excruciating detail of their lives.
• You just experimented with a new shade of hair color, which did not go well.
• You owe your friend money.
• Your friend wants to borrow money from you.
Laudable though this new app may be for all us unsociable sorts, there are certain encounters that are pretty much unavoidable. Such as:
• Work corridors. You know the drill: There's a long hallway between your work station and the cafeteria, which necessitates some sort of acknowledgment as you approach your co-workers throughout the day. Every single time.
• Supermarkets. There you are, trying to figure out the cost of kumquats, when Mary Lou from down the street hollers out your name. You exchange pleasantries, then proceed to the next aisle. Here, again, comes Mary Lou. And down the next aisle, and the next ...
• You're having dinner with friends when a slight acquaintance approaches your table to say hello. You know you need to make introductions, if only you could remember the chap's name.
• You're out for a solitary walk - until your neighbor with his three throw-me-the-ball-dependent dogs shows up.
So what's the solution? I have no idea. But if I were you, I'd stay off those location-based websites. After all, your friends could be trying to avoid you.
Bonnie Henry's column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at Bonniehenryaz@gmailcom