Potluck Writing Prompt: Dream up a world in which NOT having a social media account is fiercely illegal. What happens to those who dare to "unplug"?
by Frances Mihulec
by Frances Mihulec
Jenny had this strange knack for standing straighter than everyone else in our class. The rumor going around Facebook was that she had been raised somewhere beyond the reach of the Internet, and had been forced to register for social media accounts. It wasn’t unheard of, but most people didn’t wait until the recommended age of 13. I mean, why would they? My cousin Sky even tweeted me a YouTube video that was supposed to have been Jenny’s parents being detained by Homeland Security. I didn’t care about whether these rumors were true or not – she had been an interesting change to the peers I’d grown up with most of my life. She had hidden details to life that no one didn’t even know about. It was like having a friend who could revolutionize and change the narrative.
She would occasionally tell me about what life was like with her parents, before she had to move in with her uncles last year. “Everything was so much more quiet. Don’t you remember what it was like not to have a constant stream of memes and updates about what people are eating for lunch? I miss being able to read in silence in the library without having my location auto-checked in and people telling me what I need to read.” She paused, then grinned, “Well, I like the recommendations, just not constantly fighting to take over my attention span. There’s nowhere I can go to just be in nature anymore and enjoy the stillness. I can’t even sleep without hearing those chimes ringing in my head; worse than a death knell calling for the demise of my own sanity.”
She always made profound and poetic statements like that. I told her that she ought to put her own quotes on a meme generator once. She didn’t speak to me for three days. I mean, she messaged me, because I’m her only friend and how else would she make her minimum engagement requirement?
I suggested she start blogging. She might make a career of writing that way if she were interesting enough. She did like books a lot. I got a strange look followed by a shake of her head. “No, Star, I’m not interested in digital media. I’d rather be able to hold my books in my hands and smell the pages.”
Smell the pages – I mean, who talks like that anymore? Like I said, she’s interesting.
“Maybe you should blog anyway about how terrible it is that it’s hard to get published into print unless you’ve been dead for fifty years? Put a petition up to plant more trees to make more paper. Something.” We were all taught about the necessity of being a commodity in one or another for society. Everyone wanted to make content and be paid for it if they could. Even their teachers were required to offer content across social media about their pedagogical styles, their subject matters, their reading habits, and the like.
The times she liked the best, she admitted, were the nine hours of quiet time that underage citizens got each night to ensure they had plenty of rest. “It’s the only time I feel at peace, like the world is still somewhat at ease, so long as I don’t look at my phone or turn on the TV or the computer. That usually doesn’t fly too well with my uncles, though. They’re like you.”
I wasn’t entirely sure if she meant that as a compliment or an insult. Sometimes, I thought Jenny didn’t have much practice with making and keeping friends. Still, it wasn’t like I wasn’t awesome – I had ranking as #3 most liked student in my class and I had way more RTs than the class president. My tumblr was up-and-coming on the regional hub, even more so since I started blogging about Jenny. I kept hoping if I showed her how popular she was to the world at large, she’d start to adopt social media.
I listened as she talked to me about how her parents had managed to get past the mandates for so long. “My uncles tell me that they’ll be free one day, once they’ve been rehabilitated. They tell me to be careful and not to overuse quiet time. We’re not supposed to be quiet unless we’re sleeping or dead, apparently.” She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I’m underage. What are they going to do to me? Lock me up because I hate social media? Kill me because I’ve bricked my phone to be less annoying with the constant notifications?”
I laughed, agreeing with her. No one really did much to kids who broke the law – that stuff was good media coverage. The worst she might get is community service and a mandatory blogging class to work on improving her content creation. Honestly, she’d probably have her career made after that point.
Jenny got dragged out of class last week by a police officer. I managed to take some video of the event. She’s not been back and she won’t respond to my texts. It never occurred to me that our conversations might be monitored through our phones or that the scant details I’d put on social media might be traced directly to her or me. At least, not until the police showed up at my house. But they let me take a selfie and chatted with me about my increased social media usage, so it was alright. I wasn’t even given a warning after my logs were checked and copied. That’s why I’m blogging about this now.
I keep wondering when I’ll see Jenny again. A week is a long time to miss school and she’s been completely silent on social media, which is unheard of these days. Maybe she finally got the quiet she wanted. I hope so.
Personally? I think the notification chimes are calming. They mean the world is still chugging along and everyone wants to share themselves with the rest of the world. That’s what it means to be free… Right?
by A.B. Brownlee
by A.B. Brownlee