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The Future Price of Unpopularity

picture of laura smolenski

The bed vibrates, jolting her awake. The soles of her bare feet press against the cold wooden floor, as she submits to the urgency of getting up. Grabbing her iPhone 11xi, she darts to the bathroom, attempting to circumvent the bitter byproduct of her broken heater.

She switches on the “heat seat” button, and sits down on the toilet. For the next thirty minutes, she investigates all of her social media accounts, clenching her teeth as she checks to see if her follower-counts have decreased overnight. Scrolling through the latest Instagram posts, she reminds herself to only double-tap photos and videos that are “cool” and universally likable, not ones that she actually likes. She wonders what it would be like to just delete her accounts, and go m.i.a for awhile. Would it be like death? What would happen in the after-life? The thought is satisfying, despite its intangibility in today’s society. Back in 2019, social media was a supplementary form of self-expression. Now, the likes, the double-taps, and the follows are the new international currency. Without them you are no one, you get nothing, and you go nowhere.

Scrolling through her timeline, all she could see were lies. Pictures of friends in front of a mountain trail that they never actually hiked. Images of puppies that have no name. Flat-lays of luxurious lifestyle items that no one can afford. In 2019, these “lies” were distributed on social media in order to mask a mundane reality. Now, these “lies” determine reality. It’s a belief system that enough people have bought into that it has power. Black hole level power, and, as she sits scrolling with her legs slowly going numb, she wonders if humanity has already crossed the event horizon.

The numbness creeps up her thighs and across the muscles of her heated ass. “Go on and stop my heart too” she dares the sensation, but she gets up all the same. She brushes her teeth. She does her makeup. This part of her routine is a necessity. If you want to get likes, you have to be pretty. She makes her bed, walking around to see it from all angles, making sure it is picture perfect. Maybe she will post a picture of her breakfast today. Maybe that will get her some likes.

Checking the fridge, all she sees is eggs and some blackberries. That won’t cut it.

The grocery store is crowded but feels empty. Nowadays public places are quiet, and a sense of trepidation fills the air. After grabbing a rainbow of heirloom veggies, basil, and hibiscuspetals, she heads to the check-out, gazing down at her barcode.

An older man with a pair of ripped jeans and Boston Celtics hat on is at the front of the line. In his shopping bag there lies a carton of milk and a box of Cheerios. The cashier takes his phone and scans its barcode.

“That will be $42.95”

A couple of gasps can be heard from behind her, but she politely holds her breath, feeling bad for the poor man. There is a literal high price to pay for not being popular on social media. She thinks back to the time when her friend group invited her out to 1 Oak. She gave the bodyguard her phone, and when he scanned her barcode, a red light flashed: access denied. As she watched the man hand over the cash, she wondered if he, too, felt the same type of shame she once did outside of the club. Though he was older, did he feel uncool also? Disliked?

It’s her turn. She hands over her three items and scans her barcode, praying to the social media gods while biting down on the inside of her bottom lip.

“$6.29,” the lady says, giving her a smile of approval.

She went home, made her breakfast, and posted the picture of it. Soon her phone started buzzing with the notifications. Like. Like. Like. Like. This used to bring her relief and warmth, but now she only felt cold. She liked nothing about this, liked nothing at all.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Laura Smolenski, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2019 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: What is the future of social media? How will it evolve in the next five years? 

  • Influencers | Social Media , Pepperdine Student Comments
  • Jan 23, 2019

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