Virtual Friends

Credit// Double Tree

Virtual Friends is a short story by Ashwini Selvakumaran, depicting how people conform their ways, to fit into the virtual world of social media.

DING

You’re now friends with Julia Goodman.

The bright computer screen blared back at me. Scrolling through my Facebook profile I felt a surge of triumph, seeing my 600 friends. Though I had seen them around school, I didn’t really know most of them well.

That doesn’t matter though, I thought smiling at my 600 friends. I had a lot of friends. I felt a twinge of happiness.

It didn’t matter that Julia Goodman and I never uttered a word in the hallway other than the occasional ‘hello,’ and the usual ‘what was the french homework again?’

I clasped my hands together, stalking her profile. Hmmmm, 76 mutual friends. 123 likes on her profile picture, I twirled a piece of my stringy brown hair, enviously eyeing her perfect blonde curls and bright white smile.

I scrolled back to my own profile. 600 friends. I smiled twirling around in my chair. 600 people who know exactly who I am.

...

“But do they really know you? Like really, really?” Blake asked me the next day, shaking her messy chopped glossy bob back into place. I rolled my eyes, swiping a lunch tray from the cafeteria.

“Blake, if they didn’t know me, why would they request me?” I shrugged rolling my eyes, as we slid into our regular booth.

“I’m just saying” Blake dipped a fry squarely into the vat of ketchup on her tray, “you haven’t talked to Julia Goodman since like the seventh grade.”

I looked at her blankly, “So?”

So Casey,” she started popping the fry back in her mouth, “If she really knew you, don’t you guys think you would talk? Like an actual conversation?” She gestured to Julia’s table where she was sitting with her pretty popular friends. I shrugged.

“Blake you make everything sound so serious. We’re friends!” I rolled my eyes, taking a huge bite of my burger.

“Sure” Blake cautiously dipped another fry into her ketchup, as I side-eyed Julia and her friends taking a selfie.

“Blake let’s take a snapchat” I took out my phone quickly as she frowned through the picture.

“Oh come on” I pouted, “can you atleast look like you’re having fun?”

Blake sighed as I retook the picture, a smile semi-forced on her face.

“Better” I nodded my head uploading the photo simultaneously to Instagram and Facebook. “As long as it looks like we’re having fun, no one will question the difference.”
...

“Mom I’m having a midlife crisis.” I burst into the kitchen, later that evening, where my mother was making pizza.

“Ugh that looks delicious” I said watching the smile appear on her face, “I’ve gotta insta this.” Pushing my mom gently away from the pan, I took three consecutive shots. “Ooh the ludwig filter looks amazing!” I squealed as I saw a small sparse frown erase her smile.

“What is it?” I asked as she started muttering something. I ‘mhmed’ as I got a notification. “Tess Fairchild and Julia Goodman like your most recent photo.”

“Casey! Are you even listening to me?!” My mother lifted her hands up in exasperation as I looked up.

“What? OH, yeah. Mom, I’m having a midlife crisis.”

My mother stood with her back to me. “What?” She mumbled through gritted teeth. I rolled my eyes at her back.

“Should I wear this dress for my new profile picture?” I swiped through the pictures on my phone showing her a light velvety purple dress, “or this one?” I showed her a cute red and white striped dress.

“The red one, whatever.” She sighed looking at the pizza. “Dinner’s getting cold.”

“Oh yeah! I totally forgot to Insta this.” I applied the filter to the picture, then increased the brightness. “Tastes even better than it looks!” I captioned it, walking back upstairs.

“You haven’t even tasted it!” My mother angrily called behind me.
...

“Oof” I mumbled bumping into Julia Goodman in the hallway. Without so much as a blink of an eye, she strutted away. Just as immediately, Blake came to my aid.

“Still believe you guys are actually friends?” She smiled smugly, placing a strong emphasis on the word “friends.” I frowned to myself.

“She wasn’t paying attention.” I adjusted my ponytail, as Blake picked up the books strewn across the floor, handing them back to me one by one.

“Keep telling yourself that” She muttered in a sing-song voice as the bell rang. Heading to class I frowned. Was I really telling myself that?

...

“Hmm” I muttered to myself, examining and closely inspecting my latest selfie. I’ll just brush some of the flaws away, I thought tapping on my best selfie editing app.

I carefully removed a few small blemishes, reducing the redness, and cropping out my arms.

Ping!

My phone suddenly beeped. Scrolling to Instagram, I was met with a notification.

“Julia Goodman commented: ‘Stunning! Love you so much!’ On your latest picture.”

“How fake” I snorted to myself, thinking of our encounter earlier in the day.

And suddenly it dawned on me.

She was no better than I was.

Here I was, using a selfie editor app to get rid of my simple imperfections. Here I was with 600 Facebook friends, with whom over half I’ve never even sustained a proper conversation with. Here I was snapping pictures of my mom’s pizza instead of savouring every single cheesy bite.

I looked at my phone, whose screen had now turned pitch black. It suddenly made sense what Blake has been trying to tell me all along.

I had been living my life online, instead of in the real world.

As my phone beeped again, breaking me out of the trance of thought, I bet it was Instagram telling me another person had commented on my picture. Or maybe, it was the selfie-editor app echoing the sentiments of “come back, we miss you!”

No, I smiled powering off my phone. I’ve gotta call Blake, I thought to myself as I rushed downstairs to help my mom make her famous fettuccine alfredo, the delicious scent of grated cheese wafting throughout the air.

It’s time to start living in the real world.

CONVERSATION

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