You sit alone with your hard seltzer and your phone, scrolling and scrolling. Who can you rage at today on the internet? It’s your favorite pastime. Long days at your graphic design job are followed by long nights dragging assholes online. It’s tough, but someone’s gotta do it, and you are that self-appointed someone.
Scroll and drink.
Scroll and drink.
Scroll and drink.
You think of the term “doomscrolling” and envy the person who coined it. You yearn for that kind of clout, “the girl who came up with that thing that everyone says now.” It’s not like that’s all you aspire to do, though. You have people to put in their place.
You spy a tweet and cackle. This one’s going to be good. They’re an easy target. Your fingers fly as you type out a witty retort. You sit back, take another slug of your drink, and watch the likes pour in. You never pause to think of the sad sack on the other end of your sick burn.
He’s sitting at the kitchen table and telling his wife about it. She’s comforting him, abandoning the dishes to kiss his head and run her fingers through his hair. She tells him he’s not a bad person just because some girl on the internet says so.
“But she has 3,100 followers,” he explains ruefully.
“You need to stop being so Online,” the wife says. She turns away to wash the last dish.
You’re at the kitchen table eating Sour Patch Kids, waiting for the water to boil for mac and cheese. You brush sour crumbs from your lips as you compose your next clapback. It’s both a science and an art form.
Night is coming, slowly, then all at once. You’ve migrated to the couch, reruns of your favorite show playing in the background as your fingers keep tapping at the glowing screen. Your phone never leaves your side. It lives under your pillow when you sleep, your fingers twitching toward it even while you slumber. Everyone needs an alarm clock, you tell yourself.
The internet is quieting down. If you stay on much longer the late night crowd will be logging on. You can hang with them, but you don’t always want to. Logging off is the hardest part of the day. Just one more scroll. You snack on more Sour Patch Kids, standing over the kitchen sink in the dark, staring vacantly out the window at the moon. The air conditioning hums. It’s painful to feel so alone.
Just one more notification before bed. You tap the bell icon and a hater is calling you a bitch. Nothing new, but not the note you want to end your day on.
You climb the stairs lazily, in no rush to rest. You fall into bed and the sheets feel grimy. You forgot to change them again. That’s okay, there’s always tomorrow.
You scroll some more and keep refreshing your notifications. No one wants to spar with you right now. You wanted to fall asleep feeling alive with victory after winning an argument with a stranger on the internet, but tonight’s not your night. You turn off the light.
You’re still scrolling when your phone falls from your numb hands and hits you in the forehand. Your anger isn’t enough to keep you up til dawn this time around. The last thing you see before you close your eyes is your thumb on the notification bell, pulling hard and finding no new notifications.
Emily Hessney Lynch is a social media consultant by day and writer of strange short stories by night. Her work has been published in McSweeney’s, Spine Magazine, and Bustle. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and their two rescue dogs. You can follow her on Twitter at @EHLwrites or Instagram at @EHL_writes.