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Coming of Age Friendship Teens & Young Adult

Artwork from several generations gazed at Sarah as she sat slumped in an old green wingback chair wondering “what now?” Dusty and neglected, the paintings and needlework patiently waited. They had embodied the feelings, time, styles, and imaginations of their makers. Time long ago had been captured and crystalized in the art. Sarah had once treasured these items. A lavender doily under the lamp had brought her grandmother’s scent and presence into her being and comforted her. Colorful abstract paintings by friends and relatives had energized and inspired her. The view outside the window used to beckon her to burst outside and find a friend to play with. A sunny day brought bike riding and jacks. Rain promised jumping in mud puddles and collecting tadpoles. Snow was for sledding. The outside world was alive and waiting for Sarah’s participation.

Sarah was feeling hollow lately. It seemed to her that her whole world was chasing phantoms. Sarah had told herself she must disconnect from the social media, which had lately become her everything. She would leave cold turkey. Now. There would be no more notification beeps in the middle of the night. She looked forward to restful sleep at last! No more forays onto pinterest to check out the hottest fashion trends. She would be content with her wardrobe as it is. There would be no more frantic calls to help lines. The thick nauseous feeling of drift as the technician took over her computer to fix her problems would be gone. Now she would stare her problems in the face and fix them herself. Agency and self-realization promised to come to her the instant she stepped out of the digital world.

The task proved harder than she could have guessed, Rather than slowing down, her mind went into overdrive. The harder the possessions vied for her attention, the blinder she became. Even invitations to connect from the back yard turned her attention to social media. She heard a bird tweeting right outside her window.

“What is that bird call?” she thought. “I must download that bird call app… nope. Just listen. Maybe the bird is saying something you need to hear. Does it matter that you don’t know the name humans give to a bird?” As she pondered, she felt a tingling of inspiration right at the edge of consciousness. What did the bird have to teach her exactly? Her hand instinctively reached up to grasp a thought when an airplane buzzed overhead.

Her mind let go of the bird call and lurched into a new direction. “I wonder where the airplane is headed? I can’t check the FAA website to get my answer. So, what next?.” Sarah imagined a plane headed to Dulles airport from Las Vegas. Party goers were returning from a week of decadence. In her mind, she squeezed into a middle seat between a man glued to his phone and a middle aged woman with a blissful look on her face. Hold on, she asked herself. “Which Twilight Zone episode was that, or did I make it up?” Her curiosity almost got the better of her. But she was rescued from her reverie by a knock on the door.

It was Sarah’s mother with a cup of hot mint tea. She thanked her mother and breathed the sweet aroma of a meadow in summer and swallowed slowly. The tea slipped down her throat and warmed her chest. The hard handle of her favorite cup pressed against the fingers of her left hand. The thumb and pointer finger steady the other side of the hot cup as she sipped again. She brushed away the urge to photograph the steaming cup for Instagram. But the temptation started rising nevertheless. This is so lovely! What would it hurt to share my bliss with the whole world? She imagined the likes she would have received. Several from her usual friends. Then one from a new name, a day or two later, 4 more, then after a week, she and her favorite teacup would become a viral hit!

“Sarah!” She scolded herself, “None of that! It hasn’t been 15 minutes and you can’t keep yourself away from social media.” She went back to her tea, which was quietly cooling.

“I can’t do this on my own,” she told herself. “I need advice from someone who has kicked this problem before. But, where do I go that is not on social media?”

Her body sat limp in the old chair. Her eyes drifted listlessly about the room, seeing but not seeing. The artwork on the walls shouted and cajoled her to sit up and take notice. The bird outside her window had located a mate and was trilling joyously.

But her unseeing mind was blind. With trembling fingers, she picked up her phone and opened her Instagram.

The embroidered kimono sleeve on the wall shrugged. The colorful abstract painting grumbled. “I should have been hung in a museum!” It tossed its yellows, oranges, and purples into space to no avail. The quilt her great aunts had sewn cuddled the dreams Sarah had dreamed as a child before the Internet had taken her mind. Its message for future generations of thrift, creativity and togetherness were completely overshadowed by the Internet.

The world still wanted Sarah’s participation and she wanted to kick her social media habit but couldn’t.

Wearily, she gave in fully to the lure of social media and decided it was hopeless. Her obsession could not be overcome. Those dreams of beautiful sleep, a satisfactory wardrobe, and freedom from Instagram were just figments of her imagination. She was stuck.

Gloomily, she let herself drift in cyberspace. Whether it was minutes or hours, she did not now. That was the nature of her terrible addiction. It gobbled up her mind so that there was no room left for hobbies or exercise or real friendships.

Ping! Went her phone. It was a text from her childhood friend. “Remember, we used to make up stories all day while jumping in muddle puddles and riding our bikes?” asked Betsy. “Yes, I remember,” texted Sarah. “What of it? “

“Lets enter a story writing contest! They give you a prompt and you write a story each week. If you submit the best one, you win $250!”

Sarah’s face lit up at the memory of her friend and she looked around the room and out the window. One by one all the pieces of art and the birds and airplanes crowded her consciousness with inspiration as her mind left the social media and she began a storied writing career.

February 10, 2023 21:52

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
04:22 Feb 17, 2023

I liked the meta surprise ending to this! Warning, it can be pretty addictive too… but at least it’s not passive! I enjoyed your story - welcome to Reedsy!


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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.