Joe Tillery opened Facebook, scrolled for three seconds, then paused, one eyebrow raised.
Craig Ballard: Pooped for 17 minutes this morning. I sat on the toilet for an extra 15 so I could get out of helping my wife with the kids. A laughing face and comment from Cliff Field: “lol, classic craig!” One angry face. From Mrs Ballard. “Call me NOW.” That comment had a single like, from Craig himself.
Joe grinned, but a question stitched his eyebrows together. Who in their right mind would post that sort of thing to Facebook? He continued to scroll but didn’t get much further before the next oddity.
Justin Sharpe: Masturbated three times last night. I told my mother I need the tissues because I “always have a cold.” Several laughing faces and shocked faces. A response from Justin’s mother: “omg joe, i cant believe u!!! ur dead when u get home u little creep”.
Joe chortled out loud and slapped his knee. “Lad,” he said under his breath. He shook his head. All grown men understood the struggle. But this also begged the question, why would anyone post this to social media? What was up with people today? Joe pressed on, further down the page.
Sophia Walsh: I complained to my friends about how “Jeff Bezos is killings the planet.” Then went home and spent the rest of my salary on things I neither needed nor wanted from Amazon. Several angry faces. Comments ranged from “ur such a hipocrit soph!” to “lol same”.
Joe’s grin began to falter.
Brad Farmer: I promised my girlfriend I’d join her in going vegetarian. I still joined “The Boys” for steak and whiskey night. When I got caught, I claimed I only ate the salad and drank nothing but water. The next status update from Brad: Brad Farmer is now single.
Chelsea Harper: I worked for only 43 minutes on Monday. Whenever my boss walked by, I switched from Facebook to another screen, to look busy. A comment from Archer Reynolds, whom Joe assumed to be her boss: “See me in my office first thing tomorrow.”
Joe’s smile had vanished. He frowned at his screen. A snake coiled within his chest.
Stewart Davidson: I complained about my employees never doing enough work. But I don’t know how to rotate a PDF, and I always get my assistant to do my printing, because I can’t figure out the machine. I tell people that it “never bloody works.” A few lighthearted jabs, and one comment of “OMG dad!”
Melody Hudson: I dislike “them foreigners who can’t speak English,” but I use “was” when I should use “were”. I also can’t tell the difference between “there”, “their”, or “they’re”. A split in the comments: “that doesn’t mean nothing” and “typical racist, couldn’t even finish highschool”.
Colin Welch: I picked my nose 67 times yesterday. I ate it 94 per cent of the time. Only laugh reacts to Colin’s status. Colin replied to most of the comments with “lol” and “yeah I know”. Joe guessed he didn’t feel much shame and thought the whole thing to be rather hilarious.
Thelma Nash: I refuse to get the vaccine because “we dunno what’s in it,” but I continue to smoke a pack a day. I also don’t cover my nose with my mask because I claim I “can’t breathe.” Two comments for Thelma — “smh Thelma” and “typical boomer!”
Russell Trivett: I ranted about how the world is full of “a*******s”. Whilst on a 46-minute phone call on loudspeaker in the “Quiet” section of the train. Some smart aleck had commented, “Sounds like you didn’t change much after school, eh, Russell?” It had 23 likes.
Astrid Snider: I sat on my sofa for seven hours yesterday. I needed to go to the bathroom for over half that, but I couldn’t be bothered. Astrid had only likes and heart reactions. It seemed that most of Facebook saw themselves in Astrid’s post.
Thora Hampton: I live paycheck to paycheck. One missed rent, and I’d be out on the street. Still, I blame homeless people and poor people for their bad fortune. I also never donate, “because they’d just spend it on drugs.” To this, Thora herself had commented. “WTF” followed by “its true tho aint it”.
Alex Abbot: I scratch my behind regularly. I always sniff my fingers afterwards. Lots of laugh reactions. A handful of comments. “We all knew you did this Alex”. “You’re not subtle about it, we can see you in your office”. And, “I hope you wash your hands before lunch.”
And there in all its glory.
Joe Tillery updated his status
His fingers trembled as he scrolled the rest of the way down. He read, with dismay, his dirty little secrets. Posted for all the world to see. It had six likes, two heart reactions, three shocked faces, four angry faces.
And 19 laughing faces.
In the top right-hand corner, his notification symbol charted the number of reactions. Bright red and vital. Red like blood. It blinked and shot up. Flickered then rose again. Beneath it all, the phrase which thudded through him like a funeral drum.
Posted from aTom Smartwatch
His jaw dropped down and a confused grunt escaped him. Joe scrolled back up, sweat on his palms. Lo and behold. Posted from aTom Smartwatch. Posted from aTom Smartphone. Posted from aTom Smartphone Pro. Posted from aTom Smartwatch for MEN. Posted from aTom Smartphone 3XL. And so on.
The realisation hit like a drop of rainwater down the back of the shirt. He glanced down at his watch. Tom — the small smiley face — looked up at him. Innocent. Nonchalant. Bright green, to show A-OK vitals.
He ought to rip it from his wrist, drop it to the floor, stamp it into a million pieces. Never mind the exorbitant price he’d paid for it — it had spied on him for goodness’ sake. Had posted the shameful truths where everyone could — and had — seen. Sure, Joe could delete his status. But the damage had already happened.
As if it had read his thoughts, Tom flashed with a notification. A new YouTube video had hit the net, from one of Joe’s favourite channels.
SILLY CAT VIDEO 28 — OMG!!! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!
Joe clicked it. Images flickered across his smartwatch screen. Obnoxious music accompanied it. After several panicked heartbeats, he sighed and relaxed. A puerile grin replaced the look of consternation upon his countenance. He laughed and brayed like a donkey, pointed at his watch.