Throwback Thursdays are always so humbling for me.
I made a few grammatical changes, other than that this was Part One of my graduation dissertation. 🙂 It’s a longer than usual read, but fun nonetheless!
In previous generations college has been known as an institution considered to be an interpersonal connection of faces and names, knowing the right people and meeting the wrong ones by mistake, or vice versa. We shook professor’s hands and hugged fraternity brothers unashamed, we even looked our peers in the eyes during conversations and important events. We didn’t, however, have the networking abilities to find each person we made a connection with and further the relationship afterward, nor did we view this as immediately necessary.
Today instead of graduating from a swirling world of face to face interaction, a real life book of faces so to speak, we are graduating from an institution of screens. A mirror reflecting our true selves, social media has taken control of our lives as students and humans in general, and it is by no means going away anytime soon.
We put into our profiles and page our whole life, our experiences and our events. We use these screens as electronic journals, typing away our thoughts and plans, hoping that other people care about them just as much as we do. Our free time is spent checking up on what other people are doing in their free time, which is most likely something similar to what we’re doing on our own screen.
Look around in hallways anywhere on campus and you’ll see an average of 7/10 students or teachers on their phones. The quad is full of professional iPhone filtered photographers, and each concert or comedian visiting is hard to see through the glare of phones in the crowd. Laptops have taken precedence over the paper, typing skills over cursive skills, and homework is preferred electronically over personally. If you need an extension you can hop on Gmail or Facebook and send a quick line to a professor, connect with them instantly.
So why are we so addicted to social media, and how is it affecting our lives? Do the negatives of screen envy outweigh the positives of networking or is social media simply another small step on the grander scale of technological advancement that we must learn to live with and adapt to even further?
In my series of flash fiction pieces, I would like to address these issues and allow you to think about them as you listen to the stories of our generation, our songs of screens. Like the irresistible songs, the Sirens sang to the men in the Odyssey, these six short stories put into words our digital addictions that we have not, and our real emotions that come along with them. These stories are songs of people’s experiences, songs of people’s screens.
The Girl Who Shared Too Much
Breakfast was rather dull without her bright smartphone screen lighting up her eggs and orange juice, even though her fiancé’s face seemed to provide its own light across the table that she was envious of every day. Her own face, though uniquely stunning, never seemed to light up on its own. The contour of her cheekbones and the angles of her jawline only glowed under the light of a screen, where compliments were free and living was easy.
Tablets, Kindles, iPhones, laptops, TVs, the number of screens she actually had may have astonished some, but to her, they were just more mirrors around the house. She thought she felt a vibration on the table and instinctively reached for her phone, realizing red-faced that it was, as it always was, the train a block away rattling their second story apartment walls.
“You realize it’s an actual addiction” her fiancé continued to say; as her hands flew back to the fork and egg she should have been focusing on. He sounded lighthearted enough, but she knew that after her last ‘incident’ his already short fuse needed no more excuse to be lit.
“I was just wondering if my mom got my text last night about changing our engagement photo shoot appointment to Tuesday instead of Saturday. The weather is supposed to get nasty this weekend, at least that’s what my….”
“Phone told you, I know.” His half-finished egg sandwich found its way to the trash can as his feet found their way out of the kitchen. “I could have told you if you asked me you know, real people do watch weather and communicate face to face, weird I know,” his voice trailed monotonously away and she was sure he was going to leave for work before giving her a kiss goodbye.
She put her plate haphazardly in the dishwasher and gulped down her orange juice as she remembered the last time he refused to kiss her. It was a couple month into their engagement and he refused to kiss her goodnight, not even on her cheek. Panic started to set in again as she recalled that night, the way he found her mirrors all open.
It was her tablet, sitting on the bed that night, which caused it all. Usually, she was good about putting away her things and locking her screens and doors before bed, but that night she was floating on a happy high that made her forgetful.
A smile crept across her face thinking of that particular incident, starting to light up the edges of her mouth. She shouldn’t be smiling at all, which made her panic even more as she speed walked down the hallway to the sound of his toothbrush hitting the sink in the bathroom.
“Baby, it only happened twice. You know I feel bad, it wasn’t like I actually cheated on you, though.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth, her mouth that definitely wasn’t going to get a kiss now, and she timidly watched the light leave his face and join the hue of hers.
“Twice that I know of. And darling, you left your laptop open this morning in the living room. Let’s not pretend you still think it’s not cheating.”
Her heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest, or maybe stop, as guilt and fear rushed through her body faster than any mothers dying-baby-superhero adrenaline. She ignored the instinct to turn around and check her laptop, as well as her instincts to cry or leave.
It was the shutter of the camera, the click of her smartphone flash, that made her most happy usually. The satisfaction of knowing that temporary beauty she held was captured and ready to be shared. No, she couldn’t even lie to herself anymore, it was the click of the mouse as she pressed share online that really satisfied her. That hollow click meant that her photos were being sent out and viewed and admired and that people would tell her how meaningful her mirrors are to them as well.
Hungry eyes meant nothing to her when she considered the nude factor, the amount of skin she was actually showing. Cybersex wasn’t sex to her, it was attention and admiration. Sex was deeper in real life, it was connection and love.
“Your phone is ringing”.
For once in her life, she didn’t hear her phone, as she was concerned with the continually fading light in her fiancé’s face. She loved that light more than anything in the world, she was sure of that as she stood before him. She was also sure that the only light she could count on tomorrow was that of her screens and mirrors.