The Perfect Status

Somewhere on a journey between one place and the next, William had decided to take on a challenge that was completely unnecessary but nonetheless would resonate in the hearts and minds of both everyone he knew and mankind as a whole. On this train, positioned humbly and protected at the window seat, William had decided to write, stretching forward and back in time and space, the perfect Facebook status.

Nestled in the close belly of the carriage, William began to consider what exactly this status should be, its nature, its tone and, indeed, what it should evoke. Firstly, he thought to himself, the context of the status and its placement in the chronology of this form of social media must inform its construction and its poetic undertones. Facebook is at this point dead, in the sense that it has not been exciting to anyone in years and so now exists as a stagnant lifeless creature. Any status claiming perfection then at this stage in relation to the departed entity should be in part elegiac. On top of this though, it should also be in part an ode because somehow, although dead, Facebook still is a great power. Of course this ode would be in some ways mutated and unconventional, William conceded, as the greatness of Facebook has grown insidiously outside of the realms of direct praise; no one would currently say ‘Facebook is amazing!’ but would more readily condemn it, and yet it is still offered some form of divine reverence, as we capitalise that first letter, whether a believer or not. Its next undertone of poesy would be without doubt that of the sonnet. Just as love and God have been portrayed in this tradition, so Facebook is a drug that crushes its users whilst always drawing in and never repelling. William then set these foundations in place, with the hope that a final perfected status might liberate him from his profile’s brutish grip, where he could move into the wide expanse of the real world.

Still no words yet though. William, instead, let his train of thought carry him further into the heart of the problem, from which position he might be able to craft an ideal solution. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to stem the tide of scrolling, he thought. The nature of time spent on Facebook is that it is predominantly thoughtless. After all, do I even know what the last word or image was that I looked at on Facebook? No. Could I even remember anything about that which I encountered during a whole hour in the void? Again, not really. And this is because the content is not processed. It is seen in the same way that, on the way to work, you might see five hundred people but not be able to recall any details of each individual. To combat this, the status must stop the vast wave of scrolling without anyone realising, tricking those who see it by showing the steps and the essence of the perfect status, so that they have experienced the final product before they are aware of it. In this way, the image of the status will reveal the background workings, the pain and the toil of the creation, encouraging the status to grow as an idea rather than being a momentary strobe light that is immediately cloaked by the encroaching tide.

The aspiration of timelessness meant that previously stored away remarks such as ‘Don’t hate the player, hate the game. That’s why I don’t hate Oscar Pistorius, I hate the paralympics’ were now worthless to William and would not do. This example, it occurred to William, also had too much hatred. He had realised that the main component parts of the Facebook status were ignorance, arrogance, humour, hatred and feigned love and so to create the most invaluable contribution to Facebook’s history, the status must not just be comprised of one of these elements but must use them all, however this time in a new form, with new momentum, purpose and meaning. William felt above all that it must avoid embodying what he called ‘feigned love’, which was now everywhere. He posited that this phenomenon stemmed from the way in which a lack of flavour or colour in tone within a text message had initially always left the recipient feeling aggrieved as to the apparent boredom or want of enthusiasm in their text correspondent. This was remedied by the overuse of anything in one’s power to amplify, magnify and brighten everything said via virtual means. But it was not a remedy. It, in fact, was a poison of sorts, certainly viral in its unstoppable spread, whereby, after the creation of the emoji, and (though indeed a horror to consider) if internet expression reflected real life expression, then you would walk outside to a confusing mass of people constantly laughing and crying at the same time. But more than this, and the true horror lies here, if people cried and laughed constantly then, soon enough, neither action would mean anything at all and this was indeed what happened with the expression of emotions online.

This was just one failure of the status of old and to create the new and final form of the Facebook status, William thought it then useful to look back further at what had gone before and therefore now what could not be. One of the most fundamentally awful features of expression across the extended avenues of social media to William was quoting, misquoting and the misinformed appropriation of phrases, often where a quote from a piece of high literature or philosophy was used to support the sentiment that it is important for boyfriends or girlfriends to bring each other food in the middle of the night, as this is the physical manifestation of love. William thought more on the flaws of this habit. What was most problematic was the dizzying volume of contradictions that these quotes created as they were pointlessly flung at each other, whereby a quote about beauty standards being ridiculous and immoral is next to a quote holding up Marilyn Monroe as a deity because she was beautiful and astoundingly also read books next to a quote from Martin Luther King on equality which is next to the fifty funniest Prince Philip quotes, which all happen to be racist, sexist or both. William’s favourite quote though that was employed often with a stunning lack of research or forethought was the misquote ‘ “mistakes are the portals of discovery” — James Joyce’. The quote from Ulysses that these scholars were actually referring to, noted William, was this: ‘A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery’ and was, in the novel, from the character Stephen Dedalus in reference to Shakespeare’s choice to marry. William, aside from questioning how you can directly ascribe this quote from Joyce as though you actually thought it was Tolkien who really wanted to destroy a ring, wondered how many portals of discovery these geniuses uncovered by making so many mistakes in one quote.

William began to see a disturbing, perverse beauty in Facebook, one that antagonises and inspires awe at once. There is nothing less creative, less poetic and more destructive in my life than Facebook, he began to consider, with eyes downward fixed on his phone. But it operates not on a grand scale, which might afford it some artistry through sheer size. No…no, it operates on the most pathetic level, where the effect of it is so small but also so consistent that it ends up affecting its users in the same way as would something drastic. It splits up the time we spend on it into fragmented shards without meaning. Each word or image you come across divides up the greatest void of your life into empty seconds. But when you step back you see a decade of consistent focus into this void. Then, when you try to analyse the problem so, through understanding, you can work past it, you become aware slowly, with intensity rising at each step towards realisation, that the blame has been pinned onto your friends. You do not turn to revolt against Facebook, you turn to revolt against where you think the source of the problem lies, which is everyone you know. We do not look up into the unknowable but omniscient foundation of Facebook — its essence — because its essence is unreachable.

William stopped and looked across briefly at the book which the man seated next to him was reading.

‘The God Delusion’

Thank God for religion, Richard Dawkins should be saying, mused William. Otherwise what would he be doing? Would probably end up spending his time picking arguments with cab drivers on the way back from the pub — fourth time this week…

‘Oh him? It’s just old Richard; he’s quite harmless’ Made-Up-Mags said to her daughter, Little Maggie.

Little Maggie had been working behind the bar at the pub in their village and was growing increasingly worried, at times scared of Richard Dawkins’ nightly drunken behaviour.

‘Harmless?’ she replied. ‘I wouldn't exactly call pissing on the bar snacks harmless! It’s not just that though. It’s the way he does it-’ Little Maggie said in a lowered tone, ‘I've seen drunk people doing silly things whilst having a big laugh about it, but when Richard pisses on bar snacks it’s so much weirder. From his facial expression you’d think he was filling out a tax return.’

William intercepted a smirk by scrunching up his nose. On raising his eyes from the book cover he saw the gentleman’s eyes looking directly back at him.

‘Staring at his phone for an hour straight and then only stopping to turn and smile at my book. Young people are weird. There are no two ways about it’ thought the man, turning back in earnest to his book with a serious expression, only making William once again crack a half smile.

William now had his words, an accumulation of the distance covered whilst sitting at the window. And so he tapped. Life was at the tips of his fingers. The collected world of experiences was rolled up into a ball and, instead of being directed into the tangible, fell down into the blinding void like water droplets onto the screen of his phone. His taps then finished, finally run dry, and, after pressing down on “post” with the weight of a bloodline, he closed his eyes and vanished into dark, warm rest.

The train rocked into its platform, waking William from the depths of calm. As he slowly walked out of the station he looked at everyone he passed, absorbed and transfixed by faces and voices. It was not until he left the station, with rain now resting cold on his skin, that William stopped and stood, leaning over the nearby bridge. He pulled out his phone and read the first response. One comment.

‘William?’

He smiled, closed facebook and let his phone fall into the waters below. Somewhere on his journey between the old and the new, William had done something great.