The men and women go searching, hunting for the great ornament, the perfect page of appearance, the photo, the product, the celebrity link. They hunt in the lit-up social networking space for a form which by its form alone, without diamond blazons or flashing chains of circumstance, by its form alone, by being right, becomes the perfect stone, the essential attracting element they seek.
Walking in the street after going out for a drink with her friends at night she saw strange unpleasant men lurking in the shadow spaces between the dark buildings. They looked at her. She looked away. Then when she had passed the men and was crossing at the stoplight with her friends she turned and looked back over her shoulder anxiously. And then looked back again, as she reached the other side of the street. The men said, What are you looking at?
Or was she hearing things? She looked back over her shoulder again at the men, as though her head were on a leash at which they tugged without moving a muscle, they merely stood in the cold darkness and light misting rain and wore no expression on their faces, perhaps they were not really there, she was no longer sure what had happened and a car passed and another car turned the corner blocking out the space behind her and when she turned to look again the shadows were empty, the men were no longer there. Perhaps they had never really been there, the mind plays such tricks.
Later in the night she logged in. She counted her friends, clicking on their links, wondering about the products with which they identified as if displaying character traits, secrets about themselves, their inner realities, their dreams and longings, the celebrities they admired. The time passed and her nerves grew calmer and she could feel herself beginning to float into the familiar relaxing space of her life in which she felt comfortable and at ease, everything in its place again after the unsettling experience of the streets and the men, lurking in the shadows, asking her why she was looking at them. She remembered she was not sure about what she had seen or heard or whether she had actually seen or heard anything at all and so she went on allowing herself to drift and float.
It was a cold night in the streets and cars were passing by the corner on which the men stood in the shadows still, silent. Then one of the men began to cry, softly, gently, barely audibly, and the other men made no sign of taking note or hearing anything. A strange shyness among the men, a deference, as the man went on crying, murmuring into the mindless traffic stream, The world is myself, Life is myself.
Earth viewed from space: image by NASA, 2002
Notebook screen with Facebook logo: photo by Frydolin, 2009