Kylie curved her lip and sent a puff of air blowing the bangs out of her eyes as she scrolled. Her mind absently engaged in Facebook-the worlds digital hourglass. Entranced by the little glimpses of perfect pixel life. Captured moments frozen in place for others to gaze upon and obediently click the ‘thumbs up’ to validate the social promotion of the one seeking approval. The posts funneling from one end of the hourglass to the other earning proper praise and distinction. There is an absurd beauty to it.
Her finger strummed on the mouse from one post to the next, searching for something…uncertain of what it was, growing more frustrated by the minute that she couldn’t find it. Her shoulders slumping in defeat, she closed the laptop and surrendered to her initial belief that a brilliantly flawed humanity was on the verge of extinction. Every scroll showed a more scripted, polished humanity conditioned through social mediums was ascending to power. The world was in transition.
The first industrial revolution brought us strength in industry and textile. The second expanded that strength to electricity, petroleum and steel. Surges in human convenience. The third brings the promise of renewable energy, advanced technologies in communication, advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics – all bridging the gap for the new socially empowered humanity.
Humanity suffered with the introduction of participation trophies, the lost art of the written word, the loss of performing arts creating a delicately woven poetry quilt on the stage – evil intent cloaked in tempting candy-coated words delivered with such emotion that you felt it resonate in your soul. Viewing life squinting at a dimly lit computer screen in your bedroom diminishes the warmth and robs you of the tragic realism.
Sighing, Kylie flopped down on her bed. This would be her alibi. The cold fingers of social media brought with it a distance, a cold indifference void of empathy. Consequences were overshadowed by the need of immediate gratification and a ‘thumbs up’. She rolled to her side and looked down at the floor where his body was still motionless. His unblinking eyes, the life snuffed out of them, fixed on the ceiling. She snapped the picture with her phone and dutifully posted the pic…waiting.
The transition from humans to her kind starts with this moment. She picked up her phone and walked over to her docking station to charge for the night. Smiling to herself as she saw new photos being posted at lightening speed around the world. The same vacant expressions balanced on lifeless corpses. She plugged herself in and closed her eyes.
He watched as the tears started to troll down the girls puffy red eyes. Here we were again, he thought, carefully hiding his annoyance his arm mechanically reached for a tissue and handed it to her. Years of training and experience had prepared him well for these moments and there had been many of them. He nodded in rehearsed understanding, listening to her whimper about daycare costs, health insurance and how this job was the only means she had to afford these luxuries. She looked up at him expectantly, he recognized the shameless pleading in her eyes. Why do they do this? Tears are a woman’s craft to seduce a man’s sympathy. If a man had performed as poorly as she had and come into this office blubbering as she was, he would afford him the same courtesies as he was about to bestow on her. Truth was a virtue, was it not? It always seemed so, right up until the point it became a voiced truth, then it twisted into a corrupt fiction that people did not want you to recite to them. She cleared her throat waiting for his response drawing him out of his maze of thoughts.
He met her anxious gaze and exhaled, “Lindsey, I can appreciate your sense of urgency about wanting to keep the position that you held here. The problem is you did not exhibit this urgency or care when you had the position. It was yours to lose, and you lost it. In the future, you would do well to exercise your energy into paying more attention to the tasks at hand and learn to prioritize a healthy balance between a work and home life, never the two should meet. These are skills that I can’t teach you here. As a Social Currency Specialist, it is expected that your personal affairs are in order before you distract yourself with a position of this caliber. I find it incredibly irresponsible on your part to oversell yourself in such a volatile role and as such I’ve recalled 10 ovations from your account.”
By the stunned look on her face, he could tell this had not been the expected response. However, by the loss of ovations, he knew he would see her thank him for the opportunity and leave his office in ten seconds or less. He leaned forward in his chair and raised an eyebrow in challenge. She was professional enough to quickly mask the anger on her face and smiled warmly. “Thank you for the opportunity Mr. Matthews. I will learn from this teachable moment you have provided for me and will apply this valuable advice in the future. May I submit your Ovation Standing for reference?”
He smiled coyly back at her and nodded. “Good luck, Lindsey.” She curtly returned the nod and spun on her heal out the door. He leaned back in his chair and looked down at the box of tissues on his desk. How many has it been? Seven? Seven Social Currency Specialists fumbling inside this office boasting bold promises that they could raise my favor to the sun and then performing mediocre work or getting admittedly distracted with me altogether? He often questioned why he even needed an SCS and then remembered the report that he did in high school on the history of Social Currency. He had gotten an ‘A’ of course, but the consequence of it all had not sunk in until he had just let number…seven?...go. His mind drifted back to what he had written in his term paper and started summarizing the events that lead him here.
The International Government Alliance had been formed shortly after a computer virus had been instilled on the web wiping out all records of monetary currency. Widespread panic across several continents along with the social disruption and anarchy led world leaders to the conclusion that they needed to establish a unified front. The IGA was tasked with rebuilding social order and implementing a system to locate and apprehend offenders. They started by creating an international database to track criminals’ locations. Zane was positive they were not prepared for the waves of revolutionary tracking networks that followed. The most daunting and best known of these networks was called REPUTATION. It was originally developed to track the performance of private companies that you hired to do work for you. For example, if you had a house that you needed painted, you would check on REPUTATION for a company or you could hire a company not on REPUTATION. Once they were done with the job, you would give them ‘ovations’ as a measure of the good, or not so good job that they did. If they were not in REPUTATION’s database, you would be rewarded with ovations for adding them. Eventually, REPUTATION became the Oprah of the internet. If REPUTATION said the company had a high Ovation Score, then that company was worth it’s weight in gold.
It wasn’t long before REPUTATION evolved into a more personalized, invasive platform. We weren’t just rewarding a company’s job well done any more, we were rewarding behavior for the world’s population in an effort to create a better society. At first, it was ‘environmental’ ovations given for recycling or riding a bike to work. This expanded into health & fitness ovations, then family & community ovations and eventually ALL behavior that is desirable to the norm as a whole equates to ‘ovations’. There is also an ability to recall ovations if the behavior has been less than desirable. The Ovation Standing is presented as your resume to your fellow humans. Your Ovation Standing effects where you can live, what colleges you may attend, what cars you can drive, what places you can go, who you can marry and even whether or not you are able to obtain a license to have children. Ovation Standing starts at the ripe age of 17 years old, so it becomes a parents’ responsibility to educate their child on the criteria to be an outstanding citizen and participate in all community efforts to create a better society. At 17, their initial Ovation Ranking is inducted into the SOCIETY PAGE under ‘New Inductees’. The young adults have one year to grow their Ovation Standings before placed in the general population of the page. After that, the world takes over, guiding the young adult to an elevated state of humanitarianism. It is much like forever dating.
This is where the Social Currency Specialists can play a pivotal roll in boosting Ovation Standing by promoting your good works and getting you to all the right places at all the right times. Every cell phone is equipped with an Ovation app coded to the unique identity tracker embedded in us at our rite of passage, the inductee ceremony on one’s 17th birthday. Anonymity is a thing of the past, a fairy tale. Accountability for your actions and how they affect those around you was the gift of the government to the masses. The invasion of one’s private choices excused by dramatically lower crime rates and nonexistent school bullying. The raw, emotional states of the human condition have long been replaced by controlled, well-trained, well-behaved human bots. The warmth and passion were gone, every action was now a scripted, polished humanity conditioned through social mediums that had ascended to power. The world had transitioned.
He yawned wearily looking over at the clock, 8 PM. He scrolled lazily through his phone searching for today’s picture-perfect events from friends, his finger dutifully ready to hit the ‘thumbs up’. That’s when he saw the pictures. So many pictures. It was then that he felt the blood drain from his cheeks. He scrolled faster, his stomach tightening as every other post on display were faces staring back at him, lifeless. His hands shook for a moment and realization came crashing into him. His mind went to a name that he had not uttered in years. He did a search, his hands trembling as he typed the name in the search bar: KYLIE MATTHEWS, pausing and holding his breath as he hit ‘enter’. The hourglass spun as his world turned upside down. There beside her name was a green light, she was online. He looked at her last post for the day. His brother’s lifeless eyes looked back at him. Zane closed his eyes and gathered his thoughts. Right now, all his thoughts revolved around Kylie. He composed himself and started to think about what he was going to message her. Suddenly, his message box popped up:
“I see you, Zane.”
He stared at the message in bewilderment. It was if the distance and time between them wasn’t there. Had it really ever been?
“I see you, Kylie.”
He waited for a response and was disheartened, and relieved, when her light switched from green to red and she vanished off-line. He needed to pack. It was time to go home.