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My friends think it’s unhealthy. I focus on my goals – be strong, independent. But everyone does it. A furtive downward glance when no one is watching. The secret thoughts of being alone with him. Touching him.
I reach into my pocket. A quiver of pleasure, the thrill of the illicit. I take him into my hand.
Janie has a new dog, he tells me. Evie ate an avocado salad for lunch. Doug is wondering why his bus is always late.
I’m updated, reinvigorated. I exhale. Calm. Ready to turn back to the monitor. Right. Okay. Excel. Guiding the mouse, fingers over the formulas, =SUM(A5+B2*FF3). And then – enough.
I caress him, fingers sliding over his body. Left to right, up and down. He knows my preferences and I push all the right buttons. We’ve done the whole alphabet together. Posting, swiping, liking, tweeting, buying, browsing. Our common connection is tactile, sensual, intellectual. A true companion.
But one day it’s different. Something’s wrong. He does not respond to my touch, the patterns I swirl over his body. His screen is muted, dulled. He’s paying me no attention. I start to worry.
“Pull down to refresh,” he says. Thumbs on his forehead, I gently caress his length. A long stroke down his mid-section. I pause. Nothing.
I chuckle – he’s just playing. Flirting. It’s all a game to him and he knows how much he means to me. This must be a test. I wait a few more seconds ...
No new stories. No new likes. No illuminated hearts, no retweets, no snaps.
That’s it. A flash of anger. I jab the display with my thumb, again, again, impatient. I need him – I need you. Don’t do this to me! I can’t live without you! Squeezing him tighter, tighter, warping him with my grip. I want him to suffer, he deserves to suffer. GIVE ME MORE!
And the screen goes black.
-- Kate Wilson
Are you sure? The software asks me. I’m a well credentialed computer geek. On a winter morning in 2015 I’ve decided to quit Facebook. I’ve been on it for 10 years, since I was 16. My addiction to it annoys me. And I’m thoroughly ticked off by Facebook’s relentless tailing of the websites that I visit. I’ve been fiddling with the settings for a week and I’m over it. I’ve hunted down the delete account and clicked.
OK then. So the account was deactivated but won’t actually be deleted for another two weeks. Any activity during that time will be interpreted as a sign that I’ve changed my mind.
Pictures of my friends and those closest to me begin to appear on-screen. “Your friends are going to miss you,” Facebook says. Its machinery knew which profiles I’d checked out, who I’d messaged, even people who were in the same pictures. Facebook’s been recording what I care about. Knowing who and what I wanted in my life – knowing more than I myself consciously know – is Facebook’s business. It sells that knowledge.
Hawson, it pleads, don’t you want to stay in touch with these people?
Again, I click delete. A day later, I walk into a computer club at school and tell three friends. We decide to build something better. People think we’re crazy, which is true, but only slightly...
-- Jim Dwyer