Tuesday, May 30, 2023
×
Outlook.com
×

Cyber Bonds: A Story About Virtual Friends

Short Story

Cyber Bonds: A Story About Virtual Friends

He began to imagine a time when we won’t be able to separate our physical and cyber selves

Photo: Getty Images

Send these images of me through the internet out into the universe, where I will continue my out-of-­­body existence.”

—David Cronenberg, Consumed  

After posting that new photograph of himself on both Facebook and Instagram, he sporadically kept on checking them to see if the­re were any comments, new ‘likes’, and if so, who had posted them. He had fallen in love with this image of himself, so much so that he spent the whole day looking at it, imagining what kind of effect it wou­ld have on the women he knew admired him. He was surprised that the girl he loved most had not liked it even aft­er 24 hours, and for that reason alo­ne, thought that something might have happe­n­ed to her. As a result, he considered deleting his post or at lea­st arc­hiving it for a more opportune moment.

Over the last year, he had befriended many wom­en on social media, all of whom centred aro­und him. There were older women—with children and husbands—who gave him moral support and reminded him that he was beautiful. There were younger, clumsy girls who confessed their fascination for him much too exp­licitly and tactlessly—it was a warning for him to maintain a distance. The­re were also beautiful feminists who posted about their cats, conferring on them regal names like Humayun or Aurangzeb. They admi­red him and liked how he looked in photographs and the clothes he wore in them.

There were a few he had truly fallen in love with­—­as older sisters, mothers, aunts. The young ones­—whom he would have liked to meet in the flesh had they lived in the same city—he did not completely trust. Some of the older women he had gotten to know so well that he felt he could touch their skin through the computer screen, or sense how they moved about in their homes, how they spoke to their children, how they cooked and what kind of faces they made when thinking of him.

There were also beautiful feminists who posted about their cats, conferring on them regal names like Humayun or Aurangzeb, who admired him and his clothes.

It was a little odd when one of them would dec­ide to cut ties with him for fear of ruining a ma­r­ri­age, to which he would not know how to res­p­ond —­in his mind he was only befriending a sister he never had. He had never really known them in the real world, and cutting ties in a wor­ld that was half-real, offered something that was at the most anticlimactic, perhaps not even wor­th acknowle­d­ging as a legitimate form of separation. ‘Smil­e­ys’ and ‘kisses’ and ‘hugs’ and ‘he­a­rts’ didn’t rea­lly mean much, after all. Par­t­ing only mea­nt some form of cyber eras­ure, del­eted messages, archived chats. All he really ne­e­ded to do was dea­ct­i­vate his social media accounts and those people would vanish; it’s not like they would be kno­c­king on his door the next day.

He soon began to imagine, however, the arr­i­val of a time when we won’t be able to separate our physical selves from our cyber ones, a time when we won’t be able to switch off our social med­ia accounts, even if we wanted to; that by then this cyb­er dasein would be integr­ated into our genetic make-­up. Surely then, we will no longer be able to discern betw­een a real or a cyber friend or lover, for the diff­erence will hardly exist. We would keep ‘liking’ each other’s posts, ‘unfri­e­nding’ each oth­er and will perhaps one day bump into each other in some cof­fee shop or co-wo­rking space, staring at each other from above the hood of our laptops whilst sending an email to some distant star.

(This appeared in the print edition as "Internet Loves")

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement