Friday, 16 February 2018

Unsocial media

I don't like any of these kinds of social sites because whenever I create a profile no one ever wants to be my friend, so my page sits there, alone and unseen. The dark matter of the internet.

But I would still create the profile and mark my interests, diligently tagging, listing and ranking, and I would write funny things and watch and wait for people to come and like me. I am nothing if not patient, and when I was a shy little child standing by the edge of my neighbourhood pond hoping for a friend to play boats and chase the ducks with me, my mother always said good things come to those who wait. So, I wait and wait. My waiting punctuated only by the occasional page refresh. But it never changes. No one clicks me.

"What if you built a website and no one came?" they would say. They would look at my profile full of empty div tags. And they'd laugh because in my profile all my friends are placeholder jpgs in silhouette.

Surely someone would come, eventually. They must. I have the same interests as others, we have things in common, things we share. Aren't I just like everyone else in some unique way? I would wait, but nothing would change.

As I got older, and computers grew smaller, still no one came. No one clicks me, no one likes me. I am an old man now, and spend my days one after another after another sitting by the pond feeding the new ducks, reflecting on my life and all the interesting things I had to say that no one heard because I went my whole life unfriended.

And as more years passed and I grew frail, I would realise that in truth I had nothing interesting to say. I am not like everyone else, not the same in some special way. I am unlike anyone else. I am not special, I am not compatible, I am not loved. I look at the ducks and see happiness that I could have found in simple things, had I not been waiting for the friends I never made.

My profile, showing a handsome young man in the prime of his youth, is decades old, untouched and unedited. No one has seen it. Does it even exist? Did it ever? Did I?

And then one day my phone would chirp and I would check my profile to see that I had a new friend. My First Friend. This Friend looked so happy and vibrant in their picture that my heart would break with joy and I would feel young again because on the internet there is no age or arthritis, no twilight, just our ideas. I knew even as an old man the few years I had left would be spent in the virtual company of my First Friend and all the other friends who would surely follow in his wake. The days would be filled with love, chatter, kindness, tears and more life than an old man could take.

Another chirp. My new friend leaving his first comment! "Sorry man, I thought you were someone else" and then he is gone and they are all gone and my future full of friendship collapses back to the desert of me. I look agape at my profile whose pristine emptiness is stained only by that comment, that network traffic accident of a once and momentary friend, and in that moment, I realise what my profile is to the internet and what I am to the world – the thing you bump into on your way to someone else. My greatest conversations with my fellow man are "excuse me" and "sorry didn't see you there." Humanity has passed me by. It has moved on. But I'm left behind.

My top eight is empty. I am empty. I have spent my life inside my head, and I have come to loathe me.

And only then will I understand that my life was more than an infinite series of page refreshes. Standing there by the pond that was home to that little boy and the ducks who have since moved on, I delete my profile and vanish from the virtual world.

I will be an old man then. But I will have a warm coat on my back and bread in my pocket. And I will walk. I will walk the hills and the highways and the untread kilometres. I will walk on past it all, past the shyness and the loneliness, past the what-ifs and could-have-beens.

I will be old, but my eyes will work and my mind will work and I will walk and I will see what I will see.

Me alone. With no friends but the new rays of an ancient sun.

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