What happens when the internet generation gets old?
Matthew hit the record button on his cell phone right at the perfect moment, right when the kitten wiped its face with its open paw in an all-too-human facepalm gesture. This was what he had been waiting for. The timer showed he’d been recording the cat for 12 hours straight. Not the longest he’d waited, but certainly up there. Sometimes you have to set the program on auto and go do something else, but the program never quite tracked the kitten right. The framing was always off and the program wasn’t great at determining what people would find most squee-inducing.
Now that it was all over, he cut the video down to the optimal length. Long enough to build up to the moment and only a few seconds after so you’re not straining the attention spans or giving them video to watch when they’re supposed to be smiling or laughing or, preferably, sharing the damn video with their friends and family members and complete strangers at the coffee shop. After that he went straight to YouTube, typed out a brief description that he knew no one would read, and anxiously hit submit.
He sprinkled the link in a few places, the usual meccas of lolcats and cutes and funny videos, and then fast forwarded an hour or two. When he came back, the numbers were starting to climb. 11,232. 14,538. 23,119. The numbers started to climb exponentially once the evening news featured it on the “trending on the tubes” report, because, you know, people need to watch TV to find out what’s going on online. But it certainly helped to get the views of the old people who wouldn’t otherwise see it.
By midnight it hit 12 million. By the next morning, 17 million. He had done it. His video went viral.
Before he could even daydream about the implications of this accomplishment, he decided to check his email account — the one thing he’d forgotten to do this whole time.
He scrolled past the two already-read messages to the legion of unread messages that had marched to his doorstep. He glanced at the unread count and balked. Too many to ever get through. No telling how many were just complete wastes of time. He started to filter his email. Keyword searches for spam terms and swear words took care of a chunk. He set up whitelist filters for emails from the known addresses of internet famous people like Larry Page, Ben Huh, Matthew Inman, and Randall Munroe. Not Zuckerberg though. Once he had a few more filters in place, he started going through the ones that were flagged as potentially important. His eyes brightened as he started to type responses. Hitting send on those responses, acceptances, RSVPs might as well have been an air pump hooked up to his ego.
He kept typing.
The program froze in the middle of typing a response.
“Dad, it’s time for your lunch.”
“Sicaria? I went viral… I have to respond… I’m in the middle of… I was gonna do an AMA on Reddit in a few hours. I have to…”
“That’s great, Dad, I’m happy for you, but it’s time to eat now.”
“Sicaria, I have to…”
“It’s Carrie, Dad. Nobody calls me that anymore. Now come into the kitchen. You can finish your Read It stuff later.”
“Fine, Reddit. You can finish your Reddit stuff later.”
“But I hadn’t gotten to a save point…”
“I saved it for you, Dad. Now come on. I have some Paleo burritos at the kitchen table for you.”
As Matthew ambled into the kitchen at his own pace, Carrie picked up his glasses and put them in their case. She tried to convince him to just get the retinals, but he insisted on printing the glasses. She wasn’t surprised of course. His generation had a thing against implants. Old farts who couldn’t adapt to new technology, as far as she was concerned. Luddites.
Sergei came into the living room while she was cleaning up and noticed the look on her face.
“Your father still into that game?”
“Yeah. He sits there zoned out all day just staring at glowing rectangles. He gets grumpy when you interrupt the game. He’s spent his whole life doing that since as far back as I can remember. I sat on his lap when I was a kid while he played the Warcraft character he named me after for chrissakes. And now he just sits around all day pretending it’s 2010 again and he’s having made up conversations with internet trolls and posting first on discussion boards.”
“What’s this game called again?”