The thought experiment

Every morning Sandra publishes a tweet, a thought piece, and retweets the opinions of people she jealously admires — nothing too obscure or argumentative.

One morning, at her desk, she opens Twitter. Three dots appear in the feed as the app refreshes itself.

‘10 ways your desk reveals how you lost your virginity,’ it reads.

She carefully puts down her espresso in her perfectly turned white china cup.

Three more dots.

‘You won’t believe how many of your friends secretly despise you,’

She hears a gasp from somewhere.

‘… Sandra’.

A pause, and then an @ mention from her friend Jessica. ‘Hey. You OK?’

She hurriedly taps out: ‘I think my account’s been hacked.’

‘Awful.’

She signs out, signs back in. Changes browsers.

Three dots.

‘Check out this post: Your boyfriend is about to leave you and it’s all your fault’.

A pause. Then:

‘Watch this adorable baby lemur show you how you’ll die in just three days.’

She shoves back from the desk with a start. The coffee is knocked over and begins to drip over the side of the desk.

Two days pass. Sandra signs into nothing. Goes nowhere. Orders in food, but uses the phone. Her voice is harsh and dry. She barely opens the door to the delivery guy.

Her boyfriend, Steve, is out of town, and calls her on the second day. Tells her she’s overreacting. Sounds bemused at first, then frustrated, then tired.

‘Twitter is not trying to kill you, dude,’ Jessica says when she calls — her voice hesitant and disgruntled over the phone.

‘I don’t despise you, anyway.’

On the third day, Sandra wakes up on the couch, her eyes blinking at the ceiling. She thought she could see more light than there should be in her basement apartment, a bright white light with a yellowish tinge.

She gets up and, without a thought, walks to her laptop — still closed on her desk, the coffee stains baked into the tabletop and sticky to the touch.

She opens Twitter.

Three dots appear.

‘Sandra’.

She sees her name almost unseeingly, her expression unchanged. Her avatar beside the words has been replaced by two glowing yellow eyes.

‘Follow me.’

Three days later, they break down the doorway to her apartment. Steve leads the police into her room. It sits empty, a soft glow coming through the windows, slightly brighter than it should be. A laptop sits open on the desk, its screen blank.

‘Don’t touch that,’ the officer says just as Steve’s fingers brush the trackpad. With a hum it starts up. On the screen is a Medium post, and Twitter open to Sandra’s profile page. The Medium editor screen is open and blank.

Three dots appear at the top of the Twitter app. It refreshes with just a slight delay.

‘Write me a thought piece, Steve,’ it says.

‘I’m lonely.’
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