Fiction Speculative Contemporary

I only kind of survived because I’m not on social media. After all the scares of recent years, I begged off, finding out too late that I couldn’t see my friends’ baby pictures or even yoga videos anymore. Everyone was not only completely online, but on just two major apps where they all shared everything - photos, videos, where they were, what they were doing, what they were going to do.

The turning point was when the news media got on social media. Now it wasn’t news unless it was on Cheep or Lookbook. So of course, when some VP who’d had a few too many got a “brilliant” idea, it was doomed to spread. I only got out just in time. 

It started at Lookbook. Adam was VP, and after a bit of fun with his pals discussing cool pranks to pull for April Fool’s day, he decided to post that due to the large size of their company, Lookbook would now become a recognized country. Everyone would have to decide in a week whether they wanted to stay with their own country, or to join the ranks of Lookbook as citizens. Everyone who chose to stay in their original country would have to leave Lookbook. Adam and his friends laughed out loud as they posted this, nearly falling off their chairs. Then they bought everyone a round of drinks. 

I woke up to find the new post. It was in my notifications on my phone, first thing, and then in the 147 other new updates from her friends, not to mention a few voice calls (mostly parents), and texts. Everyone wanted to know what I would be doing - could they decide together? 

In the middle of town, a few people started a bonfire. They were burning their passports. With Lookbook as a country, all you’d need was your profile, and where else did you need to go anyway? Everyone you knew, everyone you cared about, was on there. The others didn’t matter, because they had no access to information at all.

Air America decided to change its name (with permission, of course) to Lookbook Air. They would fly anywhere and everywhere within Lookbook territory.

By noon, the governments around the world began to get suspicious, and then worried. The president came on the air and addressed the nation, saying that Lookbook’s policies were a violation of the Constitution, and constituted treason. But, technically, since they were in the cloud and had offices around the world, no one could claim the company belonged to any particular country. Still, he was warming up to turning the nuclear warheads on their headquarters. 

Leaders around the world were busy making their own statements. Many small, poorer governments openly declared solidarity with Lookbook, claiming it was a blow to the world’s dominating superpowers, and would be a country “of the people.” Others saw it as the only direct democracy - each profile, a vote, and pledge allegiance. Several popular musicians had already joined together and written a Lookbook anthem. 

By the afternoon, even China and India were worried. They’d realized that with nearly 3 billion users, the world’s largest country might be born. They threatened sanctions against any Lookbook users, sanctions that might mean no more plastic goods, or spice kits, or cheap clothes, or any number of other things. 

Commentators speculated on the location of this new nation - where would it be? Could it be possible to have a country without actual land? It seemed impossible, and also possible. After all, if anyone could do it, this was the company that could.

The people at Cheep were not to be outdone. Late in the day, they, too, announced their intention to form a country. Users would get unlimited internet access and could have dual citizenship with Lookbook. 

Within a few hours, every major internet company was a new state. They also started to buy up large tracts of land. Orange, which controlled half the phone market, took over much of Southern California, and a section of Florida. Centillion, the search and email company, amassed vast underground and ocean areas. Immediagram found the most picturesque spots and appropriated the world’s wonders. Jungle took over stretches of rainforest, where much of its supplies came, anyway. Fencemart bought up deserts for its large superstores. Soon only a few remote islands remained unowned by some company.

The United Nations disbanded. Instead, a United Corporate was born, and took over the military (which were mostly commercial installations) and security of each new company-state. A global universal finance system was adopted. Anyone without a phone or internet connection was left in the dirt. Everyone else was online all the time, virtual citizens of what was mostly a virtual world. 

All day long, Adam and the other execs at Lookbook tried to do some damage control, removing their original post, posting videos about how it was all a silly prank and not meant to be real. But by then, no one believed them.

By dinnertime, the world had changed. There was nowhere to go if you were not a member of Lookbook, or one of the other top companies, now called the “UCs.” CosmosY had even laid claim to the moon and several planets. 

Who was left? Only those who had staved off the onslaught of social media, or those who could never afford it anyway. People like me, who had cut their ties, and lived in-person lives of simplicity and hardship. I took the last flight out to American Samoa, where you can live off-the-grid amid beautiful beaches. My parents joined me, but alas, my siblings couldn’t resist the pull. We can’t get any goods anymore, at least not without paying a virtual arm or leg, so she has promised to sneak me an occasional package via a friend with a private jet. There are just about 10,000 people left here on the islands, the remainder having rejoined the UC states. 

Who knows? Maybe in a few years, the oil will run out, and the UCs will run out of server space, or power. Maybe they’ll pollute the world so much, even we won’t be able to live here.

Until then, I shuck coconuts on the beach for breakfast. Adam is here with me, and although the view is unbelievably beautiful, neither of us will ever publish a post again. 

March 31, 2021 01:13

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