What the internet thinks

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‘You looked, didn’t you?’ the book says.

‘What?’ I say.

‘Before you started this.’

‘What?’

‘At your stats. You couldn’t help yourself.’

‘Can you leave me alone please?’ I say. ‘I’m trying to work.’

From deep inside its throat the book makes a strangled-spluttering sound. ‘Work,’ it says to no one. ‘Don’t make me laugh.’

I put down what I am doing and turn to face the book. It’s looking smart, in a clean pair of trousers, its shirt ironed and face washed. Its body language is neither full-frontal aggressive, nor overtly friendly. Businesslike, I find myself thinking. But I don’t trust it. Something is up. A plan. I can smell it.

‘So?’ I begin.

‘Yes,’ the book says, meeting my gaze.

‘Where were we?’

‘If I remember correctly, we were at the point where you begin your usual routine of self-justifying nonsense, protesting that you don’t care what the internet thinks about you.’

I sit looking at the book, my mind suddenly blank. The book looks back at me, its hands folded calmly in its lap, its legs crossed. I notice it has had its hair cut.

‘Your silence is speaking volumes,’ it says.

‘Have you had your hair cut?’ I say.

‘Don’t change the subject,’ it says. ‘Take yesterday, after our little chat, you couldn’t wait to go on Facebook and see how many likes you had got.’

‘But I like to see how it’s going down,’ I say.

‘Don’t bother,’ the book says. ‘It’s going down fine.’

‘But what if it isn’t?’ I say.

‘Trust me, it is. And even if it wasn’t, would that stop you? Do you really need the internet’s affirmation that badly?’

‘But I like it,’ I say.

The book unfolds its legs, unclasps its hands, and leans forward in its chair. ‘So what you are saying is that it is impossible for you to proceed without knowing how many hits you get each day? Whether or not you are working on something, whether or not you are reading, just writing in your notebook, just being, or even having a break?’

I say nothing.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you,’ says the book.

I mumble, ‘I don’t know.’

‘I give up,’ says the book.

‘Don’t go,’ I say. ‘Please.’

‘What you need to decide is what you want,’ says the book. ‘One day it is going to be your funeral. Not tomorrow, not next year we hope, but one day. And what do you want them to say about you? That you had lots of Facebook likes or that you got stuff done? You won’t be around to hear it, remember. That’s a clue.’

‘I don’t know,’ I say again.

‘Well it’s time you decided,’ the book says. ‘It’s your life.’

 

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