Network Society Defense

A humorous fictional tale

Rumors had been circulating twitter for months and videos were now surfacing on YouTube. I believed it to be a ruse until I had my own experience with them. Last month in the grocery store I saw one in isle 10 looking at pasta. He held a torn paper in his hand, which he glanced at occasionally. There was no evidence of anything else in his hands or even in his back pocket. Sometimes he would glance at a passerby and smile. Just before I answered a text I witnessed him talking with someone near him. It was very evident he was one of them. By the time I finished answering the text he was nowhere in sight.

Last week I came home from work mid-day to retrieve some paperwork. I was barely out of the car when I spotted two of them walking toward me on the sidewalk. A man and a woman chatting and laughing. I looked for headphones, an armband, or a smart watch, but they didn’t appear to have any of those on them, which explained their strange behavior. I needed to get the mail but unfortunately I would have to cross their paths in order to reach the mailbox. Then one of them spotted me. First he made eye contact and then he smiled. I nodded in return, closed the car door, and walked as quickly as possible to the house but not so fast as to appear alarmed. Once inside, I leaned against the door breathing heavily.

A chill swept over me as I thought about what happened this morning during a routine visit to the doctor’s office. I was sitting in a room with 20 other people waiting for a nurse to call out our names. The employees behind the registration desk quietly entered data as patients came in. Except for an occasional cough no one in the room was speaking; everyone was engaged with various media on their devices. All heads were half bent forward, thumbs were scrolling up and down. Sometimes someone would lean in to another person to show them something.

A maid came in the front automatic doors, pushing a large cleaning cart. She pushed the cart over to the men’s room and set up a half fold sign to let people know the bathroom would be closed. I looked up briefly to watch the cart pass by when a strange feeling came over me. I looked at a row of chairs across from me. My pulse increased then my eyes helplessly locked with hers. I looked behind me. No one was there. When I looked at her again she smiled. I nervously smiled back then quickly looked down at my phone.

I slouched down into the thin padded chair and subtly positioned my phone toward her. My Snapchat video would tell of my own encounter with one of them. The woman didn’t seem to notice the phone pointed her direction. I was sure to “scroll” the screen with my thumb and occasionally “smile” at a “video” I wasn’t watching. I hit stop, then played the video back. I was appalled to see her in the video with her hands in her lap as she calmly looked around the room. When she made eye contact with someone she would smile. This seemed to be a pattern I was observing with these kind. She even asked someone close to her a question. I shivered. There must be something wrong with these people. I posted it to Snapchat when I became aware that she was walking toward me and trying to make eye contact again. I looked down at my phone but she was still coming. She sat in the chair next to me. A door near the registration counter opened and a nurse called my name. I ran to the open door barely escaping the encounter.

I came home determined. People had to know. This behavior could potentially spread. With quickened fingers I told the tale for my latest blog. I wanted people to know how to defend themselves against them. It was entitled Network Society Defense. Before posting it, I read it aloud:

“Circle together and keep your heads bent into your devices. Communicating should be tightly bound within the various methods of social media. There are those in our midst who go out into the world with no means of media connection. They even seem to be aware of us and will try to initially make eye contact. Once they succeed at this they will try to make an audible exchange of thoughts (an archaic form of conversation). I believe my recent encounters with them were heightened by the lack of headphones, which I have now purchased. Isolating into our connection is the best defense against those who are not connected. Spread the news on all channels of social media and listen to the rumors. There really are those who walk among us completely aware.”

I hit “publish” on my WordPress platform. I had done my part. I bent my head half forward to lean into the glow coming from my hand. I smiled. Snapchat had released Easter filters early!

Tina D. Stephens

Author of The Common Hours

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